How COVID-19 affects the heart: 3 findings

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology released three papers Oct. 19 detailing what researchers know about COVID-19's effect on the heart.

Three study findings: 

1. COVID-19 patients who already have heart disease are at higher risk for heart rhythm disturbances and blood clots, one study found. Researchers said the long-term risk of serious illness for survivors of severe COVID-19 is uncertain, but early observations are concerning.

2. People with cardiovascular problems who become infected with COVID-19 experience more severe illness and complications, such as shortness of breath and small blood clots forming in the lungs, heart and kidneys, a separate study suggests. "Although most patients recover, those who survive severe illness may experience persistent physical and psychological disabilities," the authors write. 

3. There are four preexisting problems that can worsen COVID-19: obesity, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, collectively dubbed COVID-related cardiometabolic syndrome by the authors of a third study. "The role of healthy lifestyles and pharmacotherapy targeting metabolic drivers to reduce cardiovascular risk is well-established," said Jeffrey Mechanick, MD, lead author of the study and professor of medicine and medical director of New York City-based Marie-Josee and Henry R. Kravis Center for Cardiovascular Health at Mount Sinai Heart. "However, lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic support shorter-term benefits of these interventions, similar to observed benefits on acute cardiovascular disease outcomes."

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