When the highly contagious SARS-Co-V-2 virus began to spread in December 2019 and the disease it causes, COVID-19, grew into a pandemic within a few months, we had to start making severe adjustments to protect not only our own health, but the health of others as well.
This respiratory illness has put researchers to the test with its rapid spread and inconsistencies in how it affects people. Some who contract the virus are asymptomatic, while others have shown mild symptoms. A smaller percentage, however, experience an illness that ranges from serious to fatal.
Researchers have learned that your risk of developing a more severe illness is greater if you have underlying health problems, including cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure, cardiomyopathies, coronary artery disease, and pulmonary hypertension.
Our team at Cardiovascular Institute of America in Tampa and Lutz, Florida, led by Muthu Velusamy, MD, FACC, ABVM, continues to study the effects of COVID-19. We’re dedicated to staying on the cutting edge of research and educating you on our findings.
Here’s what we know so far:
Why you could be at a higher risk for serious illness
Heart disease involves an increased risk of serious illness when you experience any type of severe respiratory illness. COVID-19 further intensifies that risk.
We’ve learned that once it enters the body, COVID-19 causes direct damage to the lungs, which triggers a systemic inflammatory reaction and puts pressure on your cardiovascular system in two ways: Your blood oxygen levels drop, and so does your blood pressure.
This combination causes your heart to beat faster and harder to supply oxygen to your body.
We’ve also learned that your vulnerability of serious illness from COVID-19 increases with age.
Risk of complications
There are two main cardiac complications associated with COVID-19: heart failure, which occurs when the heart muscle no longer pumps blood efficiently, and abnormal heartbeat rhythms.
If you have severe COVID-19, you might develop heart failure due to high lung pressure from rampant systemic inflammation, pulmonary damage, or inflammation of the heart (myocarditis).
If you’re older and have reduced cardiac reserve capacity due to existing issues, such as coronary artery disease or hypertension, severe COVID-19 can cause your heart failure.
If you’re younger and don’t have cardiovascular issues, you could develop heart failure as a result of a direct viral infection in the heart that leads to myocarditis.
You might experience the onset of irregular heartbeat rates or rhythms from the infection or from the medications used to treat it. Inflammatory responses can damage the lining of your blood vessels and increase your risk of developing blood clots.
Unfortunately, these factors can boost your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke. That’s why it’s imperative that Dr. Velusamy and our team monitor your health closely.
How to avoid illness and stay healthy
COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through droplets in the air when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. You can also contract the virus by touching contaminated surfaces, and then transferring the virus by touching your mouth or nose.
To reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19, we encourage you to avoid gathering in large groups, stay 6 feet from others whenever possible, wear a mask when you go out in public or into areas where it’s hard to maintain social distance, and be vigilant about washing your hands.
Whether you experience symptoms of COVID-19 or have heart attack symptoms, our team is fully equipped to give you the care you need. You should also know that if you feel like you’re having a life-threatening emergency, call 911 for assistance immediately.
If you have questions about COVID-19 and heart health, we’re here to help. Call our offices in Tampa or Lutz, Florida today or book your appointment online. You can also send a message to Dr. Velusamy and the team here on our website.