COVID-19 independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, study suggests

In the first two weeks after the onset of COVID-19, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases significantly, according to findings published July 29 in The Lancet.

The study, which researchers believe is the largest yet to assess the association between COVID-19 and acute cardiovascular events, included 86,742 COVID-19 patients in Sweden diagnosed between Feb. 1 and Sept. 14, 2020. More than 300,000 matched control individuals were also included in the analysis. 

The risk for acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack, increased by about eightfold in the first week after onset of COVID-19 when the day of exposure was included in the analysis. The risk for ischemic stroke rose by about sixfold in the first week. 

The risk for both heart conditions was increased by about threefold in the first two weeks even when exposure day was excluded from the analysis, which reduces the risk for bias, researchers said. 

"Our findings suggest that COVID-19 is a risk factor for acute myocardial infarction and ischaemic stroke," researchers said, adding that the heart conditions "represent a part of the clinical picture of COVID-19, and highlights the need for vaccination against COVID-19."

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