A new study finds COVID-19 can cause heart injury, even in people without underlying heart issues.
According to research from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), the death rate for COVID-19 patients with heart disease was 10.5 percent.
Experts have known that viral illnesses such as COVID-19 can cause respiratory infections that may lead to lung damage and even death in severe cases.
However, less is known about the effects on the cardiovascular system, the researchers said. “It is likely that even in the absence of previous heart disease, the heart muscle can be affected by coronavirus disease,” said Mohammad Madjid, an assistant professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) in the US.
“Overall, injury to heart muscle can happen in any patient with or without heart disease, but the risk is higher in those who already have heart disease,” said Madjid, lead author of the study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology.
The team explained that research from previous coronavirus and influenza epidemics suggests that viral infections can cause acute coronary syndromes, arrhythmias, and the development of, or exacerbation of, heart failure.
In a clinical bulletin issued by the American College of Cardiology, it was revealed that the case fatality rate of COVID-19 for patients with cardiovascular disease was 10.5 per cent, the researchers said.
Data also points to a greater likelihood that individuals over the age of 65 with coronary heart disease or hypertension can contract the illness, as well experience more severe symptoms that will require critical care, they said.
According to the study, critical cases are those that reported respiratory failure, septic shock, and multiple organ dysfunction or failure that resulted in death.
“It is reasonable to expect that significant cardiovascular complications linked to COVID-19 will occur in severe symptomatic patients because of the high inflammatory response associated with this illness,” said Madjid.
There are many reasons viruses, like the flu virus or SARS-CoV-2, can become deadly.
Three common reasons are coinfection with another germ; respiratory failure when the lungs are weakened by the disease; and a “cytokine storm” caused by an overwhelming immune system response to the infection.
“Cytokines are proteins that regulate a wide array of biologic functions, one of them being inflammation and repair,” said Dr Ashesh Parikh, DO, FACC, RPVI, a cardiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano and Texas Health Physicians Group.
“The inflammatory response of cytokines can lead to heart damage via the mechanism of heart failure,” he said.
Dr Sreenivas Gudimetla, a cardiologist at Texas Health Fort Worth and Texas Health Physicians Group, explains that when this happens, a patient could experience a potentially deadly condition called myocarditis.
“Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. It can potentially result in weak pump function of the heart muscle, known as heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) or systolic heart failure,” Gudimetla said.