Coronavirus’ Effect on Heart Health

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Health & Wellness, Senior Living

Published on November 24, 2021 with No Comments

Although commonly thought of as a respiratory illness, COVID-19 can also affect the heart and vascular system, said Northwest Medical Group cardiologists.

Doctors recognize mild COVID-19 illness by upper respiratory tract symptoms, loss of taste and smell, and gastrointestinal symptoms. Moderate illness, including symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory tract infection, occurs in about 15% of patients. Severe illness, including symptoms such as severe pneumonia, respiratory failure, sepsis and shock, occurs in about 5% of patients.

“COVID-19 does cause severe illness and death in younger and otherwise healthy people; however, advanced age, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus and hypertension are major risk factors for the worst outcomes,” says Abul Basher, M.D., FACC, cardiologist with Northwest Medical Group. 

Roughly one-third of adults hospitalized with COVID-19 are diagnosed with heart and vascular complications. The most frequent problem is heart-muscle inflammation and injury. Other serious problems include abnormal blood clotting, heart-rhythm abnormalities, cardiomyopathy and heart failure, pericarditis and pericardial effusion, heart attack, and stroke.

Children and young adults infected with SARS-CoV-2 can develop a rare illness four to six weeks after infection called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Resembling Kawasaki disease, MIS-C is characterized by hyperinflammation in the body and severe heart and vascular problems including hypotension and shock, cardiomyopathy and heart failure, coronary artery abnormalities and heart rhythm abnormalities.

“Heart involvement and myocardial inflammation can be demonstrated by cardiac magnetic resonance 
(MR) imaging after acute COVID-19 resolves,” added Stella Kyung, MD, cardiologist with Northwest Medical Group. “Chronic or ‘long’ COVID-19 is defined as symptoms persisting more than 12 weeks. It is estimated that 10%-30% of infected people, including those with asymptomatic or mild symptoms, experience chronic COVID-19.”

Common persistent symptoms include profound fatigue, loss of taste and smell, shortness of breath, palpitations, lightheadedness, and chest pain. Blood work may identify persistent inflammation, abnormal lipid levels, and disordered glucose metabolism. Chronic heart failure and development of orthostatic intolerance syndromes—resting or postural low blood pressure and/or rapid heart rates—can become severely disabling conditions.

Those recovering from COVID-19 should watch for symptoms that could suggest heart and vascular problems. 

Northwest Health recommends patients consult their primary care provider or cardiologist if they experience symptoms or have concerns. Patients can find a primary care provider or cardiologist by visiting

Abul Basher, M.D., FACC


Stella Kyung, M.D.


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