It is known now that the Covid infection can result in a host of other health problems, and that it attacks severely when a person already has an existing health condition. Among other things, it can harm the heart, for its “impact on the cardiovascular system is very common, and can prove fatal even in mild infections”, warns Dr Vivek Mahajan, consultant, cardiac surgery, Fortis Hospital Kalyan.
For people with comorbidities
The doctor explains that the virus affects organs like the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and kidneys in a more severe way if these organs are unhealthy already.
“Various conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, previous heart attacks, weak heart, obesity, chronic lung disease, asthma, chronic kidney disease, etc., result in an easier entry for the virus leading to a more severe infection. Lack of exercise, faulty diet patterns, smoking, alcohol overuse, excessive snoring, poor blood pressure and blood glucose control, being overweight and obese make these vital organs diseased and more vulnerable to Covid-19,” he says.
Cardiovascular complications and Covid
According to Dr Mahajan, Covid virus directly infects the lining of the blood vessels both carrying the pure blood to the organs (arteries) and the impure blood from various organs to the heart (veins). This can also cause blood clots in the veins of the leg leading to a condition called ‘deep vein thrombosis’.
“These clots may dislodge and travel to the lung, blocking its blood supply. This is a condition called pulmonary thromboembolism — it is life-threatening if the clot is a large one. If similar clotting occurs in the arteries of the heart, it could lead to a stroke which can be critical. These arteries are particularly vulnerable to choking by clot formation, heart attacks, and are commonly seen among Covid patients. These clotting complications may occur even in milder forms of infection even a few weeks or months after the recovery. Blood thinners like Rivaroxaban may be beneficial to prevent these complications in selected patients at a higher risk,” the doctor explains.
Covid and heart attack
Dr Mahajan cautions the virus may directly infect the muscles of the heart and lead to a condition called ‘myocarditis’. “Complaints of palpitation are common after myocarditis. Patients often exhibit fluctuation in the heart rate — from very fast to extremely slow for few weeks to months after recovery. Some patients tend to have a severe infection of the heart muscle. This can lead to dangerously-fast disturbances of heart rhythm called ‘arrhythmias’ and can lead to a sudden cardiac arrest.”
How can such patients be protected?
This is what the doctor advises:
* Patients having palpitations or breathlessness should be evaluated for the involvement of the heart muscle.
* 2D echo, MRI of the heart, and blood tests for heart muscle damage assessment, like troponin, may be advised.
* Steroids and anti-arrhythmic drugs can be particularly helpful in such conditions to prevent heart rhythm disturbances.
* A weakened heart can lead to heart failure post-Covid, which can give rise to shortness of breath and swelling all over the body, particularly the feet. This can happen in people with pre-existing weak hearts. Various drugs which remove the excessive water through urine and improve the functioning of the heart can be helpful.