Congratulations, you have survived the dreaded Covid19. You have spent the last 11 months worrying about it, distancing yourself from your former life to avoid it, catching it, dealing with it, and successfully fighting it off.
I’m sorry to say you are not in the clear yet.
You probably still don’t feel 100% and it has been weeks or even months since you were ill. It was possibly the sickest you have felt in your entire life. We are learning daily about the after affects, both short and long term that the spectrum disease has caused. This vicious virus leaves a calling card after it is done.
The reported long-term symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Muscle pain
- Sleep issues
- Rash or hair loss
- Loss of small and/or taste
- Intermittent fever
- Fast-beating or pounding heart.
Although the more serious long-term complications appear to be less common, they have been reported, and given the very large population infected by the virus, this adds up to significant amounts.
These complications have been noted to affect different organ systems in the body, including your heart.
Part of the issue is that many patients who survived Covid-19 were not ill enough to need hospitalization, so they were not as closely monitored as the admitted patients. If you were not hospitalized, you need to pay careful attention to signs your body is giving you that require a doctor’s visit as you may have undiagnosed cardiovascular damage and complications.
Imaging tests which were taken months after recovery have shown lasting damage to the heart muscle, even in people who experienced only mild COVID-19 symptoms. This may increase the risk of heart failure or other heart complications in the future such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
COVID-19 can make blood cells more likely to form clots. While large clots can cause heart attacks and strokes, much of the heart damage is believed to stem from very small clots that block tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the heart muscle. According to Harvard Medical School, critically ill patients with COVID-19 and low levels of factor V (F5 gene) appear to be at increased risk for death from a form of coagulopathy that resembles disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)—a devastating, often fatal abnormality in which blood clots form in small vessels throughout the body, leading to exhaustion of clotting factors and proteins that control coagulation.
Not everyone experiences Covid the same way, different patients report different symptoms, and the virus lingers in various parts of the body. The medical community is still trying to understand why and how. Once inside the heart, the virus can inflict damage in a number of ways, either through directly invading heart cells and destroying them, or inducing an inflammatory response that can affect cardiac function.
Possible WHY factors:
- Preexisting heart disease puts you at greater risk.
- Undiagnosed heart disease may mask typical symptoms that go undetected.
- The stress on the body from fighting the virus can send the sympathetic nervous system into overdrive, weakening the heart muscle.
- Fever and inflammation make the blood more prone to clotting, while also obstructing the body’s ability to dissolve clots.
Some patients develop fulminant inflammation of the heart muscle as a result of the virus directly infecting the heart. This type of inflammation could lead to heart rhythm disturbances and cardiac muscle damage as well as interfere with the heart’s ability to pump blood optimally.
Cardiologists are trying to understand what determines who will recover and who will not. It makes sense that patients who had cardiovascular problems pre-Covid are more vulnerable, although your own immune system plus the viral load factor also weighs heavily. The presence of cardiac scarring will also impair cardiac function.
Some cardiologists have suggested that treatments such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, aspirin or beta blockers may help patients with lingering cardiovascular effects many weeks or months after the initial infection, but the evidence remains limited.
The bottom line is that the American Heart Association recommends regular examinations for heart health beginning at age 20. If you haven’t done so yet, and have recently had Covid19, now would be a good time to come in for a visit. Any type of irregularity is best to be treated sooner rather than later.
We welcome new patients into our Interventional Cardiology office recently opened in convenient Colts Neck.
Advanced Heart and Vascular of Central Jersey
Dr. Peter Farrugia Board Certified Cardiologist
340 NJ-34 Suite 201, Colts Neck, NJ 07722
(732) 487-3636 https://ahvcj.com/