The complicated relationship between COVID-19 and heart health

Doctors are seeing evidence that COVID-19 infections may have a significant impact on the heart.

While our country recently surpassed the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in the United States, there is still so much to learn about this deadly virus.

Over the course of the past year, health care providers have observed both short- and long-term effects of the coronavirus. The cardiologists at Crystal Run Healthcare, and all over the world, are seeing evidence that COVID-19 infections may have a significant impact on the heart.

Maria Sobolev, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Crystal Run Healthcare, shares her insight about what the Crystal Run heart care team is seeing throughout the practice. According to Sobolev:

COVID-19 and the heart: What cardiologists are seeing

Medical experts are trying to figure out the connection between COVID-19 and cardiac injury.

With post-COVID care, it’s difficult to determine which symptoms are results of lung damage or heart damage. According to the American Heart Association, if you’re experiencing increasing or extreme shortness of breath with exertion, chest pain, swelling of the ankles, heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat, not being able to lie flat without shortness of breath, waking up at night short of breath, experiencing lightheadedness or dizzy spells, you should make an appointment with a cardiologist. These symptoms may be a sign of a cardiac issue and require further examination.

Early on in the pandemic, it became clear that certain heart conditions, specifically heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies and pulmonary hypertension, increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Now, cardiologists are seeing that COVID-19 is also causing cardiac injury in patients who have previously never had heart issues. Inflammation, lack of oxygen supply, increased stress, vascular damage of the arteries and plaque rupture, leading to a heart attack, have all been observed in patients who’ve had COVID-19 infections.

Does that mean everyone who’s recovered from COVID-19 now has a heart issue? Not necessarily.

The team at Crystal Run has seen a broad range of heart health and conditions in patients who’ve been infected with the virus. Some patients manifest no clinical evidence of heart disease, some have no symptoms of heart disease but have cardiac test abnormalities, while others have symptomatic heart disease. In severe cases, patients may present with heart failure (HF), cardiogenic shock, multisystem inflammatory syndrome and cardiac arrhythmias, including sudden cardiac arrest.

Medical experts are still trying to figure out why this may be occurring in different patients and what – if any – correlation there may be to other underlying conditions. Cardiologists believe that heart failure in patients with COVID-19 may be precipitated by acute illness in patients with preexisting heart failure or previously undiagnosed heart disease.

As clinical studies continue, we hope to learn more about why some recovered patients develop heart conditions while others don’t. We still have a lot to learn in terms of the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the heart, but we will continue to research until we know all that we can about the correlation.

Stay diligent to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19

People over the age of 60 with health conditions should take extra safety precautions.

Continuing to practice safety measures to mitigate risk, such as wearing masks, social distancing, washing your hands often, avoiding crowds, confined or poorly ventilated spaces, as well as contact with sick individuals, will help reduce the risk of transmission.

“As a cardiologist, I recommend all my patients, especially those over the age of 60, with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, congestive heart failure, valvular heart disease and arrhythmias, be extra cautious,” said Sobolev. “We don’t want to risk additional damage to the heart that COVID-19 has been seen to cause. It is important to continue follow-up with your health care providers, take prescribed medications, control blood pressure and blood sugar levels, eat well and stay physically active and get vaccinated when you’re eligible.”

COVID-19 care at Crystal Run Healthcare

People who are currently infected with COVID-19 or are recovering from the virus should be evaluated by multiple specialists. The virus has been known to affect multiple vital organs – from the lungs to the heart, even the brain and nervous system.

Trusting your care to the experts at Crystal Run ensures a coordinated approach to treatment. Your electronic medical records, all kept in one place, are accessible to Crystal Run’s over 400-plus providers. Specialty referrals and consultations are seamlessly organized as needed for a comprehensive health assessment and care.

Do you have COVID-19, or have you recovered from the virus? Check up on your health at Crystal Run Healthcare. Visit https://crystalrunhealthcare.com/find-a-doctor to find a provider that’s right for you and schedule an appointment today.

Crystal Run Healthcare is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021. Over the past 25 years, the practice – and its expertise – has grown exponentially. Crystal Run’s mission has remained the same since the beginning: provide the highest-quality health care in the region. Crystal Run Healthcare would like to thank its patients, stating: “We are grateful to our patients for trusting us with your care for the past 25 years, and we will continue to be here for you and your family’s health for 25-plus more.”

Crystal Run Healthcare will be there for you and your family as the team responds to challenges with innovation – and with heart. For the past 25 years and onward to the next 25, Crystal Run will be changing health care and changing lives.

To learn more about Crystal Run Healthcare, visit crystalrunhealthcare.com and follow the practice on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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