How does COVID-19 affect the heart?

Scientists are continuing to explore the toll the virus takes on the cardiovascular system. Three new papers released Monday lay out what’s been learned so far

  • People who already have heart disease are at higher risk for heart rhythm disturbances and blood vessel-blocking clots. Heart muscle injury, which occurs in about 1 in 4 hospitalized Covid-19 patients, is tied to both a greater need for a ventilator and to death, one study finds.
  • People with cardiovascular problems who become infected experience more severe illness and complications, struggling to breathe and having small blood clots form in the lungs, heart, and kidney.  “Although most patients recover, those who survive severe illness may experience persistent physical and psychological disabilities,” the authors of another paper write.
  • And in a third paper, experts break down four pre-existing problems that can make Covid-19 infection worse: obesity, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, which they collectively call Covid-related cardiometabolic syndrome. Medications, better diet, and increased exercise are tried and true remedies in the long term, but “lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic support shorter-term benefits of these interventions,” the study says.

Are people with chronic conditions at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19?

A new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that people with chronic conditions including diabetes, lung disease and heart disease appear to be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

The report finds 78% of COVID-19 patients in the U.S. requiring admission to the intensive care unit had at least one underlying condition. And 94% of hospitalized patients who died had an underlying condition. The analysis is a preliminary snapshot based on data from about 7,000 cases in the U.S. and about 200 deaths.

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