HOUSTON — We all know that COVID-19 attacks the lungs and throat, but a new study has found that the novel coronavirus can also cause serious cardiovascular problems. For individuals with pre-existing heart conditions, COVID-19 can make matters worse and have fatal consequences. But, even among patients with no prior heart issues, it appears the virus is capable of inflicting cardiac injury.
“It is likely that even in the absence of previous heart disease, the heart muscle can be affected by coronavirus disease,” says lead study author Dr. Mohammad Madjid, an assistant professor of cardiology at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, in a release. “Overall, injury to heart muscle can happen in any patient with or without heart disease, but the risk is higher in those who already have heart disease.”
The study’s authors say that it isn’t entirely unheard of for a virus to attack the heart. Previous coronavirus and influenza strains have been known to cause coronary syndromes, arrhythmias, and even heart failure in extreme cases.
Moreover, according to the American College of Cardiology, COVID-19 patients with a pre-existing cardiovascular condition have a 10.5% case fatality rate. There’s also evidence to suggest that older people (65+) with coronary heart disease or high blood pressure are more likely to contract the virus in the first place, as well as require critical care.
“It is reasonable to expect that significant cardiovascular complications linked to COVID-19 will occur in severe symptomatic patients because of the high inflammatory response associated with this illness,” Dr. Madjid adds.
Beyond heart problems, the most common symptoms associated with COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. That being said, muscle aches, sore throat, nasal congestion, and headaches have also been reported by many patients.
As you read this scientists and doctors all over the world are working tirelessly to develop a coronavirus vaccine and treatment plan. But, for now, the study’s authors recommend that everyone pursues a traditional influenza vaccination. Particularly at-risk individuals should also look into a pneumonia vaccination. These vaccines won’t protect you from COVID-19, but they can help ward off co-occurring ailments during a coronavirus infection.
The study is published in JAMA Cardiology.