With vaccines and boosters more readily accessible, seasonal outbreaks of COVID are less intense than in past years. Long COVID patients remain wary though.
A recent report published by the CDC in September 2023, found that of the 6.9% of adults (approximately 18 million Americans) who reported ever having long COVID, 3.4% (approximately 8.8 million) said they currently had the condition.
The CDC labels long COVID as a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected.
Long COVID Shown to Increase the Risk of Heart Issues
Researchers found consistent evidence that individuals with long COVID were significantly more likely than those who never had COVID to experience symptoms associated with heart problems. They were also more likely to show markers of heart disease or elevated cardiovascular risk in medical imaging and diagnostic tests.
How COVID Affects Your Heart
COVID can affect your heart and circulatory system in many ways. And people with existing heart and circulatory conditions are at a higher risk of complications from COVID.
A COVID infection can lead to a faster heart rate, AFib, blood clots, and heart damage due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Although rarer, COVID can also infect and inflame the heart muscle (myocarditis) and its lining (pericarditis).
The virus can damage the endothelium (the inner lining of blood vessels in our body) and deny your body the healthy blood supply it needs to work properly. Damage to your blood vessels can lead to abnormal blood clotting — which can result in a clot in the blood vessels, in the lung (pulmonary embolism), or a heart attack.
A COVID infection can cause your heart rate to become fast or irregular in response to fever or inflammation, as your heart works harder to pump more blood.
What You Can Do
COVID remains a serious illness and is potentially life-threatening — especially if it affects your heart.
If you think you’ve been infected, or have been around someone with COVID, be sure to take a rapid test or get a PCR test, available at a clinic, hospital, or physician’s office.
If you test positive and/or experience COVID symptoms — difficulty breathing, fever, cough — call a health care professional.
If you have had COVID, or suspect you are suffering from long COVID, make an appointment with a heart health specialist to make certain you are evaluated for any early signs that could indicate the presence of cardiovascular disease.