New research published in the journal natural medicine found that people with COVID-19 may be at « substantial » risk of heart complications for at least a year after testing positive. Heart complications can include blood clots, irregular heartbeat, inflammation, heart attack, and heart failure. In some cases, the complications have even led to death.
In the study, which was published last Monday, researchers analyzed data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health system, taking into account the results of 153,760 people who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 2020 and January 2021. The researchers then compared them to two control groups of people who they knew did not have COVID-19 at the time of data collection. One was a group of 5.6 million people who accessed the VA medical system during the pandemic (the contemporary controls), as well as 5.8 million people (the historical controls) who accessed the VA system in 2017 , before the pandemic. This is the first study to analyze such a large group in relation to cardiovascular outcomes after COVID-19.
The researchers analyzed the health outcomes of these nearly 154,000 veterans with COVID-19 and compared to these two other groups, one year after the acute phase of infection – a period shortly after the onset of the infection when multiple physiological processes occur – patients who had been infected with COVID-19 showed an increase in 20 different heart health issues. This included a 52% higher risk of stroke than contemporary controls as well as a 63% higher risk of heart attack, a 69% higher risk of irregular heartbeat and a 72% higher risk of cardiac arrest. « Due to the chronic nature of these conditions, they are likely to have lasting consequences for patients and healthcare systems and will also have broad implications for economic productivity and life expectancy, » study co-author Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, of the VA St. Louis Health Care System and Washington University in St. Louis said on Twitter.
Perhaps the most concerning research finding is that heart-related risks have been shown to be common even in people who have experienced COVID-19 in a mild form, such as those who have not been hospitalized or in care. intensive because of their symptoms. Moreover, this higher risk of heart problems has also been observed in people considered less vulnerable to the virus, such as people under the age of 65 and not facing immunocompromised risks such as diabetes.
In the study, the researchers acknowledge that « the mechanisms underlying the association between COVID-19 and the development of cardiovascular disease in the post-acute phase of the disease are not entirely clear ». Some of the potential mechanisms to consider include infection of endothelial cells (the cells that line blood vessels and regulate exchange between the bloodstream and surrounding tissues) and downregulation of ACE2 (an enzyme attached to the membrane of cells in the intestines, kidneys and other organs). As the reasons are still not entirely clear, further research is needed. « Addressing the challenges posed by the long COVID will require a much-needed, but so far lacking, urgent and coordinated long-term global response strategy, » Dr Al-Aly said. said on Twitter. « I am happy that the Cancer Moonshot is relaunched. We need a Long Covid Moonshot.