By Long Cao, MD
As COVID- 19 causes havoc on the world, more and more people are dying. Those who are fortunate to survive still deal with complications thereafter. Certainly, mortality and morbidity have both been on the rise.
Many people link the COVID- 19 virus to the direct cause of death. However, we have failed to recognize that these deaths are a direct result of respiratory failure, cardiac failure and/or irreversible organ damage; although, the virus was first and responsible for igniting the flame.
It has widely been reported in case reports, small cohort studies and on mainstream media that people whom are elderly, have a weaker immune system, carry a preexisting lung disease or heart disease fare worst. Questions of whether this virus directly causes heart damage versus it bringing out the worst in someone’s pre-existing heart condition have been raised. The answer for now is that this novel virus does both, according to leading Scientist and Cardiologist.
COVID-19 infection could lead to heart damage in several ways. Cardiologists have long known that any illness, even something as straightforward as uncontrolled high blood pressure, can create enough stress to damage the heart. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can cause widespread inflammation in the body. That, in turn, can lead to plaque in arteries becoming unstable, causing heart attacks. This is why we do stress test on patients with lupus, diabetes or end stage renal disease. Inflammation may also cause a condition known as myocarditis, which can lead to the weakening of the heart muscle and, ultimately, heart failure. Aside from proximity, the lung and the heart also work very closely together, so whatever affects the lung, in this case COVID- 19, indirectly effects heart. For example, many people with pulmonary hypertension, and/or long term sleep apnea first subsequently end up with cardiac issues as well. We are also noticing many receptors that COVID- 19 effects in the lung are also locating in the heart, which links COVID- 19 to have a direct effect on the heart in the same ways that the same hormones in our body effect both lung and heart at the same time.
In short, I strongly believe that folks with preexisting heart disease need to take more caution to keep away from COVID- 19; this is obvious according to the media outlet. But more importantly, be it less emphasized, those with no preexisting heart problems such as the younger population, need to be more cautious as their guard is likely down. They may acquire heart disease during and/or after a COVID- 19 infection. Please do not think that you are ever immune in any respect. Take care and God Bless.