This article is a part of a series by The Better India to share verified information about COVID-19 care. While several posts on various aspects of fighting COVID-19 are being circulated on social media and messaging services like WhatsApp, we urge you not to trust unverified content. To separate fact from fiction, we will be sharing the videos and content with doctors and experts and bring you their responses with scientific research-backed information.
There have been several new variants of the novel coronavirus since 2019. With each patient, the medical fraternity is learning something new about COVID-19. In this article, we examine the correlation between COVID-19 and heart health.
In this report, Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director and Chief Cardiac surgeon of Medanta TM-The Medicity said, “At least 15-20 per cent of patients’ hearts are getting affected by the virus. While patients with a history of heart-related illness or those who had stents installed in their hearts or have undergone a bypass surgery are found to be seeking medical help for enhanced symptoms after they contracted coronavirus disease, what is worrying is that in some cases patients with no pre-existing history of cardiac ailment reportedly got an attack.”
The Better India spoke to Dr Atul Mathur, Director – Cardiology & Chief of Cath Lab Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, to understand this phenomenon better.
1. Is there a correlation between COVID-19 and heart ailments?
Dr Mathur: Yes, there is a correlation between COVID-19 and heart ailments but this has to be looked at under two categories. The first are those with pre-existing heart disease, such as those who have had a heart attack, bypass, valve operations, and are prone to more severe illness when they contract the COVID-19 virus. The second set are those who contract the COVID-19 virus and develop the viral involvement of the heart muscles, which can lead to myocarditis or heart failure.
Patients are also susceptible to developing acute blood clots in their coronary artery, which results in heart attacks. This is also something that can happen in younger patients.
2. Once you recover from COVID-19, what are the signs one should watch out for, with respect to the heart?
Dr Mathur: In recovering COVID-19 patients, if there were no pre-existing heart ailments, we usually are concerned with two aspects – the occurrence of myocarditis and the formation of blood clots even after four to six weeks of the COVID-19 infection subsiding.
So, even after four to six weeks of recovery one can have an acute attack. One of the signs that one can look out for include a heaviness in the chest. Patients suffering from myocarditis might experience rapid heartbeat and breathlessness. In such cases one is advised to get a check-up done immediately by a cardiologist.
3. For someone who has recovered from COVID-19, is there a risk of having a heart attack — even with no pre-existing heart condition?
Dr Mathur: Yes, one is at risk of having a heart attack after having recovered from COVID-19. Such people, who did not have any heart ailment prior to the onset of COVID-19, may be suffering because of blood clots. Those who already have heart conditions are also at risk of having a heart attack after recovering from COVID-19.
4. Are heart patients at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19?
Dr Mathur: No, the risk of contracting COVID-19 arises due to exposure from aerosols. If you have a pre-existing heart ailment then the chances of COVID-19 impacting you severely is higher. Underlying co-morbidities only increase the risk of severity of COVID-19 and does not put one at any risk of contracting the virus.
5. What timely intervention must be carried out if a heart patient contracts COVID-19?
Dr Mathur: Heart patients who have contracted COVID-19 need to be monitored even more closely. Timely blood work, to ascertain the CRP, D-dimer and CPK-MB readings must be done to help understand the severity of the infection. This will provide an indication of the complications that might arise in such patients.
6. Is it normal for one to have heart palpitations and pulse rate reaching 130 post COVID-19?
Dr Mathur: Post COVID-19 there are several reasons why the pulse rate in a patient can be high. The patient continuing to have a fever, low oxygen saturation level, anxiety and myocarditis can lead to one having a high pulse rate too.
7. Are vaccines safe for patients with heart conditions?
Dr Mathur: Yes, they are absolutely safe for anyone with a heart ailment. Both the vaccines currently available in India are safe.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)