These Symptoms Can Point to Cardiovascular Complications From COVID-19

These Symptoms Can Point to Cardiovascular Complications From COVID-19

by Sue Jones
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“Long term, we are seeing unusual symptoms in the cardiovascular system including abnormal heart rate and heart rhythm as well as blood pressure excursions and changes in blood vessel tone and skin discoloration,” says Dr. Cameron. Published research papers have found that people are at higher risk of stroke and heart attack in the weeks following a COVID-19 infection, likely due to the lingering risk of clotting. One very small April 2021 Journal of the American Medical Association study showed an elevated risk of stroke even if people had asymptomatic COVID-19 infections and were young (the study only examined men aged 50 and under). Then there’s a more recent study from early February 2022 published in Nature. It examined veterans a year after their COVID-19 infections and showed increased risks of a wide range of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, stroke, and myocarditis, even if the COVID-19 infection was mild.

As research is ongoing, it’s important to emphasize that the data don’t guarantee someone with COVID-19 will experience cardiovascular complications either during or after the acute infection. In fact, overall, these cardiovascular complications are relatively rare. But even a relatively rare increased risk indicates a concerning pattern, so it’s no surprise experts are committed to demystifying the connection between COVID-19 and cardiovascular events.

“The mechanisms are still completely unclear, and it’s a major area of research at this time,” says Dr. Cameron, which he understands can be frustrating. “Science and discoveries are based on new information every day, and we might not have the answers today, but we have them as the data comes in.” Dr. Cameron also notes that many researchers, including himself, have pivoted to studying COVID-19 in the past two years in an effort to better understand these effects.

How can you prevent cardiovascular complications from COVID-19?

The first thing both physicians emphasize is to make sure you are up-to-date on your COVID vaccines, as this vastly reduces the risk of any serious complication from a COVID-19 infection. Make sure you’re boosted, too, and following other safety measures as needed, like masking in crowded indoor areas where COVID-19 transmission can be more likely.

If you do end up developing COVID-19, Dr. Hoofnagle suggests being aware of symptoms that could signal a potential complication, even after you seem to be recovered from the acute illness. When it comes to blood clots, those symptoms can include a limb (like your leg) beginning to hurt, becoming lighter in color than usual, and becoming cold, Dr. Hoofnagle says. Symptoms of myocarditis can include severe shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, and heart palpitations.

If you experience any of these symptoms (or anything else that feels strange during or after COVID-19 infection), check in with a medical provider as quickly as possible. “If something weird happens, go see a doctor,” Dr. Hoofnagle says. “Don’t write it off.” Depending on how serious your symptoms are, it may be best to call 911 or head to the emergency room for the quickest evaluation and potential treatment possible.

 

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