COVID -19 and the Heart (Part 1)

COVID -19 and the Heart

How does COVID-19 affect the heart?  In answer to that question, we have to look at two different populations.  One group involves generally healthy individuals with no risk factors for heart disease and no pre-existing heart conditions and the other involves patients who are high risk individuals with underlying hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, smokers and those who have already had a heart attack or stroke or congestive heart failure.

We focus on the first group which are healthy individuals.  In general, 82% of the people who develop COVID-19 have no symptoms or mild symptoms that resolve after 14 days. These are the people who are told to stay, self quarantine and monitor their symptoms until they get better.  If you are generally healthy and develop COVID-19 you should be mindful of your symptoms. If you have shortness of breath, consider purchasing a pulse-oximeter (from your local drug store for a cost about $20-40).  If your oxygen saturation goes below 92% and you are short of breath, you may be suffering from lack of oxygen as a result of pneumonia but also it is possible that you have a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in your lungs) or involvement of your heart.  The virus can affect the heart muscle and make it weak, a condition called myocarditis.  The symptoms are shortness of breath resulting from fluid buildup in the lungs as a results of heart failure.   Bottom line, if your oxygen is low, you must go to the hospital.

Another symptom that is important in anyone including the healthy adult with COVID-19 is syncope (that is loss of consciousness) or near syncope (feeling very dizzy) even if transient.  These symptoms can also be a manifestation of pulmonary embolism in COVID-19 patient.

It is important to recognize that COVID-19 is a disease that can lead to severe inflammation and clotting and the latter can be fatal.



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