The effects of COVID-19 on the lungs are well known. It was originally believed that COVID-19 was a respiratory disease. However, with the increase in the number of people infected, it became clear that the coronavirus has multiple physiological manifestations.
It is already well known that people with cardiovascular diseases are at an increased risk of developing severe complications if infected with the virus. However, new research has now revealed that a significant percentage of people who recover from COVID-19 face long-term heart damage in the subsequent months.
Inflammation and Heart Function
It is already known that COVID-19 causes a significant amount of inflammation. This level of inflammation causes a “cytokine storm”. This causes the immune system to produce a big response against the virus but also ends up injuring healthy cells. Inflammatory response of this magnitude ends up putting a lot of stress on the heart muscles. So, when there is a cytokine storm, it can lead to inflammation of the heart (fulminant myocarditis), leading to heart muscle cell necrosis or death. This can lead to heart failure or problems with the functioning of the heart.
Direct Injury to the Heart
Apart from the fact that the virus can cause inflammation, another possibility is that this virus directly injures and infects the cardiovascular system. Patients with a more intense inflammatory response have a higher probability of developing serious heart trouble.
The coronavirus infects the body through the ACE2 (angiotensin converting enzyme 2) receptors, which are prevalent in the respiratory system. These receptors are also found in the heart and blood vessels. According to studies, the virus seems to enter the heart cells through these ACE2 receptors. This leads to damage at the cellular level, leading to cell dysfunction and cell death.
Underlying Heart Issues
A lot of patients who develop COVID-19 complications have prior heart issues. A recent study found that the fatality rate of patients with heart diseases was higher (10.5%) as compared to patients with other conditions such as diabetes.
Patients who are already suffering from coronary disease are more susceptible to cardiac complications due to an already compromised blood flow and reduced blood function. Apart from this, the added strain experienced by the heart to pump blood during COVID-19 leads to the possibility of a heart attack.
Certain medications used to treat COVID-19 may also increase the risk of heart disease. Certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antiviral drugs, and glucocorticoids may aggravate heart trouble, leading to fatal results.
NSAIDs can increase blood pressure, which is dangerous for patients with a known history of hypertension. Antivirals and anti-inflammatory drugs can impact the immune system, leading to a dangerous change in heart rhythms. Glucocorticoids are known to increase the levels of blood sugar, which is risky in people who have coronary diseases.
Due to these factors, extreme caution should be administered while using these drugs, especially on patients with heart issues.
COVID-19 has far-reaching consequences. Continuous research is leading to continuous new findings regarding the impact of this disease. One needs to continue being cautious and following all possible precautions to stay safe.
Originally posted 2020-08-10 06:27:52.