When COVID-19 first started to spread in the United States, experts initially thought it was a virus that impacted the body’s lungs. Now, we know that the heart is greatly impacted, too.
“Not only have we seen complications in cardiovascular patients, but studies have also been done that show a greater number of COVID-19 patients developing heart complications,” explains James Smith, MD , a board-certified AdventHealth cardiologist with more than three decades of experience in interventional cardiology.
Heart Damage in COVID-19 Patients
Some imaging tests taken months after a patient’s recovery from COVID-19 have shown lasting damage to the heart muscle — even in people who experienced only mild COVID-19 symptoms.
Even after recovering from COVID-19, complications may still arise. Coronavirus can make blood cells more likely to clump and form clots, and blood clots are what can cause heart attacks and strokes.
Who Is Most at Risk of Heart Damage From COVID-19?
Dr. Smith advises that those who are most at risk of heart damage from COVID-19 include:
- Elderly patients
- Obese patients
- Patients with significant underlying heart disease
- Immune compromised patients
We have to be wary because we’re seeing some that are not explicative of these underlying conditions.
When it comes to coronavirus, we know that patients of all ages and activity levels can become very ill. Older patients and those with other medical conditions do tend to feel complications from COVID-19 more aggressively, but what does that mean for the heart?
According to Dr. Smith, it shows that even young, healthy patients are experiencing heart problems, such as a heart attack, that are related to COVID-19.
Dr. Smith shares, “We have a 42-year-old patient who had a heart attack as a result of COVID-19 and we’re still treating that patient even months later. Everyone involved in cardiac health care who is working on critical care patients at AdventHealth has seen an impact in their patients from COVID-19.”
There isn’t much information available yet regarding the risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular issues in COVID-19 patients, but Dr. Smith says underlying heart disease can be a factor.
“When it comes to heart health and COVID-19, what’s most surprising to me is that the types of responses in patients are so varied,” Dr. Smith explains, adding, “A 100-year-old might handle coronavirus just fine and someone who is 40 can lose his or her life.”
Treating COVID-19 Patients With Heart Issues
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or could have been exposed to it and is experiencing shortness of breath and fever, don’t hesitate to get emergency care. Dr. Smith explains that these are the two main symptoms that could lead to cardiovascular issues.
COVID-19 patients who are having cardiovascular issues are treated based on their specific symptoms, but Dr. Smith said the general treatment plan is two-fold: Treat the virus itself and manage cardiovascular issues with standard advanced treatments.
Learn More About Cardiovascular Care at AdventHealth
Taking the best care of your heart and vascular health — from keeping it healthy to mending it — is what we focus on at AdventHealth. For more information on cardiovascular care, visit FloridaHeartExperts.com.