Mild COVID can affect heart health for up to a year: study

Contracting COVID-19, even a mild case, can greatly increase your risk of developing cardiovascular complications for up to a year after you’ve recovered.

Research has confirmed that people who have had COVID have an increased risk of developing problems within the first month to a year after contracting the virus.

Complications include disruptive heart rhythms, inflammation of the heart, blood clots, stroke, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure or even death. The conditions were found to occur even among previously healthy individuals and those who had a mild infection.

In a paper published in Nature Medicine, a team of researchers from Washington University analysed hospital records to create a controlled dataset that included health information about 153,760 people.

All participants had tested positive for COVID between 1 March 2020 and 15 January 2021 and had survived the first 30 days of the disease. This data was then compared with cardiovascular outcomes in two other groups not infected with the virus.

Read: Concerns COVID treatments may interact with common meds

“We wanted to build on our past research on COVID’s long-term effects by taking a closer look at what’s happening in people’s hearts,” says Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, co-author of the study.

“What we’re seeing isn’t good. COVID-19 can lead to serious cardiovascular complications and death. The heart does not regenerate or easily mend after heart damage. These are diseases that will affect people for a lifetime.”

The research team found a 50 per cent higher risk of developing serious cardiovascular conditions in the group that had contracted COVID compared with the groups that had not.

The COVID group recorded a 72 per cent higher rate of coronary artery disease, a 63 per cent higher rate of heart attacks and were 52 per cent more likely to experience a stroke.

Read: Why a serious case of COVID could affect your insurance, even decades from now

The increased risk seemed to be elevated even for those who had no other risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and being aged over 65. Very few of the patients studied had received a COVID vaccine as they were still being rolled out in many places in January 2021.

“It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, it doesn’t matter if you smoked, or you didn’t, the risk was there,” Dr Al-Aly says.

“Our findings highlight the serious long-term cardiovascular consequences of having a COVID-19 infection and emphasise the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as a way to prevent heart damage.”

If you’re recovering from COVID, the Heart Foundation still recommends staying active with some light daily exercise (as little as 10 minutes per day initially), but to be aware of your condition and don’t push yourself too far.

Read: Signs you may have had COVID and not known it

Watching what you eat is also a big part of keeping your heart healthy after a bout of COVID. Healthy meals will not only protect your heart but also boost your immune system.

Have you had COVID? Was it mild? Have you had your heart checked recently? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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