This concern was addressed in the findings of a new study published in JAMA last month, demonstrating that even if you are unaware of having any symptoms after recovery from Covid-19, there is the possibility that the virus may cause heart damage or inflammation that could put you at risk for complications including heart arrhythmias, heart failure and sudden cardiac death.
The American Heart Association’s (AHA) campaign, “Don’t Die of Doubt” was launched to address the significant drop in 911 calls for symptoms of strokes and heart attacks. “The incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) went up 400% the first week of April in New York City compared to the same time last year, so we know some patients are dying of their heart disease at home – trying to avoid ER’s for fear of contracting the virus,” explained Andersen.
Even with aggressive treatment, however, more severe cases of myocarditis from Covid-19 can lead to permanent heart damage, leading to ongoing heart failure and sudden death. “The novel coronavirus can affect the heart directly and indirectly: it can invade the heart muscle cells causing inflammation or “myocarditis” which can reduce the heart’s pumping ability and make it vulnerable to arrhythmias,” said Holly S.
And while SARS-CoV-2 may lead to overt cardiac symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath resulting in heart attacks and blood clots, there is also the possibility that the virus may cause significant heart damage and inflammation—but without producing any immediate or more noticeable cardiac symptoms.
Andersen also explained that “the virus is also known to cause damage by forming blood clots in the small blood vessels of organs including the heart, may lead to serious lung disease which can put significant strain on the heart, and in some patients causes a “cytokine storm” where the body’s immune system causes damage to organs.
A lot has been written about “long haulers”—patients who have tested positive for SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, who continue to experience ongoing symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, palpitations and difficulty breathing for months after their initial diagnosis.
The researchers, who performed MRI scan of their hearts an average of 2 months after they first were diagnosed with Covid-19, uncovered some concerning findings: 78% of patients had ongoing heart abnormalities and 60 percent had myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle.