According to cardiologists, how does COVID affect the heart

As the pandemic progresses, researchers have begun to understand how COVID-19 affects our bodies.

In the early stages of a pandemic, risk factors such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes are rapidly associated with the increased risk of serious illness and death due to COVID.

We now know that among the countless ways that damage our health, viruses affect the heart and directly cause a series of heart complications.

In addition, Pfizer and Moderna's mRNA COVID vaccine is also related to heart inflammation. But this is very rare. Compared with the vaccine, you are more likely to develop heart inflammation due to COVID infection.

This is what we currently know.

How does COVID affect the heart?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus can directly invade the human body and cause inflammation. This can affect the heart, leading to myocarditis and pericarditis-inflammation of the myocardium or the outer membrane of the heart.

The inflammation caused by COVID can also cause blood to clot, which can block the heart or cerebral arteries, leading to a heart attack or stroke.

COVID can also cause abnormal heart rhythms, blood clots in the legs and lungs, and heart failure. Our understanding of how COVID causes heart inflammation and myocardial damage is becoming clearer, although there is more to learn.

According to reports, approximately 10-30% of people infected with COVID will have persistent symptoms of this virus, called "long COVID."

A study on long-term COVID published in July found that common cardiovascular symptoms include palpitations, increased heart rate, slower heart rate, chest pain, visible swollen veins, and fainting.

Of the approximately 3,700 study participants, more than 90% reported that their recovery lasted more than eight months.

The Delta variant was first discovered in India in October 2020 and is highly contagious. It is a variant responsible for blockades in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

Although data is still emerging, it may lead to more serious diseases and may increase the chance of heart complications.

A study in Scotland found that compared with the Alpha variant (originating in the UK), patients with the Delta variant have approximately twice the risk of being admitted to the hospital due to COVID. It also found that Delta is most common among young people.

The good news is that two doses of Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines are still effective in preventing Delta complications.

COVID vaccine and the heart

Scientists have discovered a link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare coagulation syndrome.

There is also a link between the mRNA COVID vaccine and the rare side effects of cardiac inflammation (myocarditis and pericarditis). This seems to be most common in men under 30 and after the second vaccination.

But this is very rare. To date, of the 5.6 million doses of Pfizer vaccine administered to Australians, as of August 1, only 111 cases of suspected (undiagnosed) heart inflammation have been reported. In Australia, there have been no reports of deaths related to the side effects of this vaccine.

Recovery from this type of heart inflammation is usually good. The benefits of vaccinating against COVID far outweigh the potential risks of these usually mild diseases.

Nonetheless, if you experience any changes in symptoms after the COVID vaccine, including chest pain, irregular heartbeat, fainting, or shortness of breath, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Most people with heart disease can be vaccinated safely. However, if you have suffered from myocarditis or pericarditis in the past six months, please consult your doctor or cardiologist.

Don't delay checking your heart

During the pandemic, many people are reluctant to seek medical attention. This includes emergency and routine care for heart disease. In countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, and China, the delay between onset of symptoms and hospitalization is longer. This makes long-term heart damage more likely.

A study found that the number of people admitted to hospitals due to heart attacks worldwide has decreased by 40% to 50%. An Australian study found that between March 2020 and June 2020, there was a 21% reduction in heart surgery at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.

Even during a pandemic, it is important that you do not neglect your heart health. If you think you have a heart attack, please dial three zeros (000) immediately.