Another Nasty Side Effect of COVID Rears Its Head

Millions potentially affected by heart problems as researchers warn of strained health systems
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2022 8:09 AM CST
Risk of Heart Problems Spikes After COVID
Researchers say anyone with a prior COVID-19 infection who experiences unexplained cardiovascular symptoms should seek help.   (Getty Images/Love portrait and love the world)

People who've been infected with COVID-19 are at a "substantial" risk for cardiovascular diseases up to a year after infection, according to a study of US veterans, 99.7% of whom were unvaccinated. The study analyzed health data for 153,000 veterans who were infected up to January 2021, before COVID-19 vaccines were widely available, and observed for up to a year afterward. In comparing these individuals to control groups, researchers found a prior COVID-19 infection resulted in a 60% increased risk of any cardiac issue, from inflammatory heart disease to stroke, per USA Today. Those infected had a 72% increased risk of heart failure and were five times more likely to develop myocarditis compared to a non-infected person.

"Physicians need to understand that COVID-19 is now a cardiovascular risk factor, like we talk about diabetes and high blood pressure and cholesterol as a risk factor for heart problems," lead researcher Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University, tells CNN. Indeed, "in the post-COVID era, COVID might become the highest risk factor for cardiovascular outcomes," Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Larisa Tereshchenko, who's conducted similar research, tells Science. The study published Feb. 7 in Nature Medicine found increased risk across all ages, sexes, races, and cardiac risk factors. "The risk was evident even in people who had very mild disease or did not need hospitalization," says Al-Aly.

Infected people who were not hospitalized were twice as likely to have a pulmonary embolism than people who hadn't had COVID. However, the risk increased with disease severity. People treated in the ICU were more than 21 times more likely to have a pulmonary embolism than someone who was not infected. As a country, we should be focused on the likelihood that there are "millions of people in the US who now have heart problems or will have heart problems in the near future," with the potential to strain health systems, Al-Aly tells CNN. "Some of these conditions are chronic conditions that will literally scar people for a lifetime," he adds, per Science. And "similar things could be happening in the brain and other organs." (More COVID-19 stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.