After more than a year of fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic, you might assume that we would all have a greater understanding of the disease and how it impacts our bodies. The truth is the medical community is getting a better idea of its impacts on patients now and what we can expect in the future. However, many patients still come to us with reasonable concerns about their heart health post-COVID, so we’re going to address those concerns here.
Patients with healthy hearts tend to fare better after a COVID-19 infection than those who have pre-existing conditions. Some of the conditions that cause health complications for COVID patients are Heart Failure, Coronary Artery Disease, Cardiomyopathy, Obesity, and High Blood Pressure. Pre-existing conditions like these weaken the cardiovascular system making your body more vulnerable to COVID complications than a healthy person.
The fact is, even patients without pre-existing heart conditions have struggled to overcome COVID and suffered adverse heart-related side effects. But the question most people have is, “how and why does COVID affect your heart at all?” There are a couple of different ways that COVID affects a patient’s vascular system. COVID’s side effects differ from patient to patient. For more information about your heart health, consult with your cardiologist.
Inflammation is a condition that can occur in areas all over the body. If you’ve ever experienced sinus or gastrointestinal problems, you’ve had inflammation. It is a reaction that commonly occurs in response to illness or injury where your immune system is fighting so hard that areas of your body become agitated. Myocarditis is a term we use to describe inflammation of the heart caused by an infection that can severely weaken the heart muscles leading to heart failure and even death. The inflammation caused in COVID-19 patients is known to cause severe and even permanent heart damage resulting in scarring and cell death in the heart muscles.
Another common source of COVID-related heart damage is when the heart is required to work harder to overcome issues related to the lungs. We know COVID-19 as a respiratory disease. When the lungs become inflamed or scarred due to the infection, the heart has to work harder than average to deliver blood to the lungs. Extra strain as a source of heart disease is not uncommon, and the more intensely the heart has to work to pump blood, the more damaged it is likely to become, ultimately resulting in heart failure.
You’ll notice the common thread throughout this article is inflammation. In COVID-19 patients, that inflammation caused by overwork can also occur in the lining of the blood vessels. The more inflamed they are, the more likely a patient is to experience blood clots that stick to the walls of the vessels in a condition we know as atherosclerosis. Which, if left untreated, may result in a heart attack or stroke..
Low Blood Oxygen
The functions of your heart and lungs are very closely linked. The lungs pull in oxygen from the air, and the heart moves that oxygen to all the areas of the body by way of the blood. When the lungs cannot function properly due to an infection like COVID-19, the blood oxygen level can drop to the point that the heart is no longer getting adequate oxygen. We’ve heard a great deal of information about patients on ventilators, and this is usually the reason why. When the body no longer breathes efficiently, outside measures are required to avoid long-term damage to the heart and lungs.
It’s fascinating the way each element of the human body works together. The circulatory system includes both the lungs and heart, and they are inextricably linked. In COVID-19, this means that the disease many people think of as strictly a respiratory condition also has severe repercussions for the heart. The list of pre-existing conditions is long, but it includes age and heart health. We share this with you not to inspire fear but to remind you that, should you fall into these categories, it’s essential to take good care of your heart health and practice the safety precautions laid out by the CDC.
As we continue fighting more than a year and a half into the pandemic, we urge you to be vigilant in protecting your heart health. Some of the essential factors of heart health are exercise, stress management, and a healthy diet. If you’re concerned about COVID-19 and how it might affect your heart, begin by addressing these issues in your life so that you can protect your heart. Your heart health is unique, and it’s important to us. If you have more questions about how to take care of yourself in these unprecedented times, contact our office today.