The American College of Cardiology has issued guidance on addressing heart risks from a SARS-CoV-2 infection.(1)
While heart complication are relatively rare, they do happen, and both consumers and care givers need to be aware of the risks. These risks exist regardless of whether the infected person displayed symptoms of Covid or not.
In fairness, given the incomplete data on both heart disease and Covid infections, we really don’t know how common heart complications are. We are assuming the incidence is low based on the treatment statistics that exist, but we don’t know how many “walking wounded” are among us.
Consumers need to be sensitive to any chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, palpitations and/or syncope. Palpitations are “feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart”.(2) Syncope is a passing loss of consciousness, perhaps a “graying out” during a meal, conversation, or, worse, while driving.
Having had Covid and having COPD due to allergy-induced asthma, I know these symptoms well. Being able to take a deep breath doesn’t mean so much until you can’t.
With Long Covid, these symptoms may persist for months. These symptoms may cause consumers to cut back on physical activity, and that can make the condition deteriorate. (By the way, there is a clinical name for Long Covid now: PASC, standing for “post-acute sequelae of COVID-19”.)
Alternatively, doctors may find an abnormal result on a heart test as part of a standard annual physical. This is why having a physical is important!
An underlying risk is myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle from viral infection.
Diagnosis may require an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram and/or heart MRI. The purpose is to assess the heart structure and whether there is a buildup of fluid in the sac in which the heart is enclosed.
Treatment may include corticosteroids if there is evidence of Covid-19 pneumonia, or the use of other heart medication. Treatment will involve referral to a heart specialist. For those with advanced or severe heart disease, hospitalization and even a heart transplant may be required.
In the case of a beloved granddaughter of close friends, who was unable to have a transplant, the result can be quite premature death.
Don’t play around with this. If you think you have symptoms, have them checked.