As we continue to help patients navigate care options and prioritize their health during the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians everywhere are also keeping a watchful eye on the unique and evolving risks that COVID-19 presents for patients’ long-term health.
The effects of COVID-19 on the lungs are apparent, but many are unaware that the virus also has the potential to cause damage and create complications in the heart – even in patients who have never struggled with their cardiovascular health previously. Understanding these potential risks and working closely with your cardiovascular care provider are crucial for preventing and responding to complications that may be related to COVID-19.
How COVID-19 Affects the Heart
Research over the past year has found that COVID-19 has the potential to invade the heart, resulting in inflammation or weakening in the heart muscles. This damage may be amplified due to the body’s response to the COVID-19 virus. The virus triggers the release of cytokines, or proteins in the cells of the heart. When too many of these proteins are released they can spread throughout the body, potentially compromising a patient’s heart muscles.
Symptoms to Watch For
Older adults and those with pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes are at the highest risk of developing COVID-related cardiac complications. More often than not, the symptoms of COVID-19-related cardiac disorders closely mimic those of other common heart complications. Depending on their current health status, patients may experience anything from shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat to much more serious issues like blood clots, heart failure, or stroke.
Unfortunately, there are certain cases where patients delay treatment or intervention for their symptoms in an attempt to avoid coming into the hospital during the pandemic. I cannot emphasize enough to my patients—and to all—the importance of seeking timely medical attention. We want all patients to know that it is crucial for anyone who is experiencing these symptoms to not delay or forego medical attention. Doing so can lead to irreversible damage to the heart and has the potential to be fatal, if left untreated. No matter the circumstances, if you or a loved one is experiencing chest pains, trouble breathing, weakness or numbness in the body or any other signs of a heart complication, please seek care immediately.
Protecting Your Heart Health
Our multi-disciplinary team of cardiac physicians, surgeons, and rehabilitation and genetic specialists provide compassionate and comprehensive approaches to cardiac care. We are committed to protecting your heart health now, and in the future.
Main Line Health is passionate about prioritizing the comfort and safety of our patients and our communities. We remain vigilant as we continue to provide expert care for patients while minimizing their exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Visit the Main Line Health website to learn more about our cardiovascular care offerings or how we are protecting your health during the COVID-19 pandemic.