Patients with COVID-19 are at high risk of developing heart problems up to a year after infection
An analysis of federal health data indicates that people who have had COVID-19 are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular complications in the first month to a year after infection, according to researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine. at St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System.
Extensive analysis of federal health data indicates that people who have had COVID-19 are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular complications within the first month to a year after infection. These complications include disruptive heart rhythms, inflammation of the heart, blood clots, stroke, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, or even death.
Such problems occur even in previously healthy individuals and those who have had mild COVID-19 infections, according to the study, led by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System.
The research is published Feb. 7 in Nature Medicine.
We wanted to build on our past research on the long-term effects of COVID by taking a closer look at what’s going on inside people’s hearts. What we see is not good. COVID-19 can lead to serious cardiovascular complications and death. The heart does not regenerate or repair itself easily after heart injury. These are diseases that will affect people for the rest of their lives.”
Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, lead author, assistant professor of medicine, University of Washington
More than 380 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus since the start of the pandemic.
“As a result, COVID-19 infections have, so far, contributed to 15 million new cases of heart disease worldwide,” said Al-Aly, who treats patients at VA St. Louis Health. Care System. “That’s pretty important. For anyone who’s had an infection, it’s critical that heart health is an integral part of post-acute COVID care.”
Cardiovascular disease – an umbrella term that refers to various heart diseases, thrombosis, and strokes – is the leading cause of death in the United States and around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in four Americans dies from heart disease each year.
What’s more, heart disease comes at a high price, according to the CDC, costing the United States an estimated $363 billion each year in healthcare services, drugs and lost productivity.
“For people who were clearly at risk for heart disease before being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the results suggest that COVID-19 may amplify the risk,” said Al-Aly, who is also director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Chief of Research and Education for the St. Louis Veterans Health Care System.
“But most remarkably, people who never had heart problems and who were considered low risk are also developing heart problems after COVID-19,” he added. “Our data showed an increased risk of heart damage in young and old people; men and women; blacks, whites and all races; obese people and people without obesity; people with diabetes and those who don’t; people with a history of heart disease and no history of heart disease; people with mild COVID infections and those with more severe COVID who required hospitalization for it.”
The researchers analyzed anonymized medical records in a database maintained by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the nation’s largest integrated health care delivery system. Researchers created a controlled dataset that included health information from 153,760 people who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 1, 2020 and January 15, 2021 and survived the first 30 days of illness. . Very few people in the study were vaccinated before developing COVID-19, as vaccines were not yet widely available at the time of enrollment.
Statistical modeling was used to compare cardiovascular outcomes in the COVID-19 dataset with two other groups of people not infected with the virus: a control group of more than 5.6 million patients who had no COVID-19 during the same period; and a control group of more than 5.8 million people who were patients from March 2018 to January 2019, long before the virus spread and the pandemic took hold.
The study does not include data for the delta and omicron variants of the virus, which began to spread rapidly in the second half of 2021.
The COVID-19 patients in the study were mostly older white men; however, the researchers also analyzed data that included women and adults of all ages and races.
The researchers analyzed heart health over a period of one year. Heart disease, including heart failure and death, occurred in 4% more people than those who had not been infected with COVID-19.
“Some people may think 4% is a small number, but it’s not, given the magnitude of the pandemic,” Al-Aly said. “This translates to approximately 3 million people in the United States who have suffered cardiovascular complications from COVID-19.”
Compared to those in control groups without any infections, people who contracted COVID-19 were 72% more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, 63% more likely to have a heart attack and 52% more likely to suffer a cerebral vascular accident.
Overall, those infected with the virus were 55% more likely than those without COVID-19 to experience a major adverse cardiovascular event, which includes heart attack, stroke and death.
“Our results highlight the serious long-term cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19 infection and highlight the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as a means of preventing heart damage; it also highlights the importance of ‘increasing accessibility to vaccines in countries with limited resources,’ Al-Aly said.
“Governments and health systems around the world must be prepared for the likely significant contribution of the COVID-19 pandemic to an increased burden of cardiovascular disease,” he said. “Due to the chronic nature of these conditions, they are likely to have lasting consequences for patients and healthcare systems, and will also have broad implications for economic productivity and life expectancy. but so far, an urgent and coordinated long-term global response strategy is missing.”
Washington University School of Medicine
Xie, Y. et al. (2022) Long-term cardiovascular outcomes of COVID-19. Natural medicine. doi.org/10.1038/s41591-022-01689-3.