Doctors from China are reporting that coronavirus can leave your heart with permanent damage, even after the infection subsides. These findings were reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology (JAMA Oncology).
— American College of Cardiology (@ACCinTouch) March 25, 2020
Previously, it was seen that often heart injuries appear in patients infected with coronavirus. This was especially pronounced in patients with high blood pressure and heart disease. Nearly 12% patients develop heart complications, according to previous studies.
Now, the latest findings reported by doctors at Denim Hospital in Wuhan University reveal that of the 416 patients hospitalized for severe coronavirus infection, a whooping 20% developed heart damage, more than 50% of whom then died. Heart is not even the concerning part in this disease. These patients then develop higher risk of death and that too unexpectedly.
In the study, people who had a reported heart injury, 60% had high blood pressure, 30% had a previously diagnosed coronary heart disease and 15% among them had a history of chronic heart failure.
RISK FACTORS: People with coronavirus infection and 📌cardiovascular disease, 📌hypertension and 📌diabetes are at least 2x as likely to die. 📌Smoking is especially deadly – smokers have 14x greater odds of developing #COVID19 pneumonia than non-smokers.” https://t.co/WvOwQB2WlU
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) March 25, 2020
The researchers observed that compared to the 51% people with heart damage who died, only 4.5% died who did not have heart damage.
However, it is not yet known whether high blood pressure alone was a risk factor or some other variable was at play. It is also not clear that blood pressure was being managed by medication in patients or not. There are a lot of gaps in the knowledge to make any clear connections yet.
The Heart Connection
There are several theories on why coronavirus can be affecting heart health. One of these theories involves a cellular function called cytokine storm. As seen with other viruses, coronavirus could be attacking the immune system as such that the immune system goes into full gear and activates a series of events named as cytokine storm. This term means that immune system cells and the compounds that activate them, commonly referred to as cytokines, go into overproduction. This can then go on to damage major organs in the body, including the heart.
Another explanation can be that people already have a heart disease and additional stress of the coronavirus infection exacerbates the condition. Previously, such physical stress on the body and mental stress of the disease has been linked with increased blood pressure and heart injury and disease.
Yet another explanation can be that the virus is directly attacking the heart muscles. It is very much possible that the virus is directly latching on to the ACE2 receptors in the cells and unleashing damage to those cells. These receptors are found in heart, lungs and cells of the digestive tract.
Who is at Risk?
As new evidence comes to light, it is becoming increasingly clear that people with serious heart conditions are more at risk of developing complications from coronavirus than people who are healthy. Other people at risk include immunocompromised patients, and people with lung disease and asthma. People who have had their lungs scanned after coronavirus infections have been seen to suffer lung scarring and even punched holes in their lungs.
Just spoke to the @GWHospital doctor who helped create this virtual reality rendering, an eye-opening new perspective of what COVID-19 does to a patient's lungs.
This was built from a CT scan of an actual coronavirus patient in DC. Yellow = lung damage.https://t.co/AMLDA2vo7G pic.twitter.com/DRTO9lw66B
— Heather Graf (@ABC7HeatherGraf) March 24, 2020
This puts a large population of people at risk of complications from the virus and even death. According to American Heart Association’s heart and stroke statistics 2019, 48% of the adult population in America has some sort of cardiovascular disease. This makes a population of 121.5 million people vulnerable to coronavirus complications.
Nearly half, or 45% to be exact, of the American population suffers from hypertension or high blood pressure as well. Close to 33 million people also suffer from chronic lung disease and 1 in every 13 million people have asthma as well in US. This is why social distancing at this time is not only important but vital.