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Covid-19 appears to increase long-term risks of cardiovascular problems

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Covid-19 appears to increase long-term risks of cardiovascular problems is not surprising to doctors. Other viruses, such as influenza and certain enteroviruses, have long been known to carry the same risks.

"Anybody who is hospitalized with any kind of pneumonia that they acquire in the community has these risks for six to 12 months," said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association. "The open question for me is, is this something unique about Covid? Or is this the same story we already know?"

Covid's heart risks may be showing up with more regularity just because the virus spread so quickly.

"It's very concerning because so many people will be getting Covid in the next however many years, and so many have already gotten it," said Dr. Jennifer Haythe, co-director of the Women's Center for Cardiovascular Health at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York. "This may really increase the burden of cardiovascular disease across the board."

Al-Aly's research is not the first to suggest long-term heart risks following Covid-19.

A study of recovered Covid patients in Germany found that 78 percent of patients had heart abnormalities. Swedish research, too, found an increased risk of heart attack and stroke following Covid-19.

It is not entirely clear how Covid could cause heart problems over the long term, though it is known that the virus can affect blood vessels all over the body and in multiple organs, including the heart.

Regardless of infection, the pandemic itself is also upping the risk of heart health problems.

"Too many patients are delaying getting back into their routine within the health care system," Lloyd-Jones said. "We've seen marked increases in overall blood pressure levels, weight gain, worsening control of diabetes, and all of those things are contributing to increased risk."

Anyone whose Covid recovery stalls, or who experiences a sudden onset of new symptoms, such as chest pain, intense muscle weakness or shortness of breath, should call 911 immediately, Lloyd-Jones said.

Those aren't just red flags, he said. "Those are flashing lights."

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