Large study ties COVID-19 to 6-fold increase in heart diseases

A new study involving more than 428,000 COVID-19 patients found the infection is tied to a sixfold increase in heart disease diagnoses in the weeks after infection, compared to those without COVID-19. 

The study, published July 19 in PLOS Medicine, also found COVID-19 patients had a higher risk of developing diabetes. The risk of being diagnosed with diabetes in the first month after infection was 80 percent higher among those with COVID-19, relative to a control cohort of uninfected people.  

The overall sixfold increase in heart diagnoses was mainly driven by an elevenfold increase in pulmonary embolism and a sixfold increase in atrial arrhythmias, the findings showed. For new heart disease diagnoses, risks started to decline five weeks after infection and returned to baseline levels or lower within 12 weeks to a year. The risk for diabetes, however, remained elevated by 27 percent for up to 12 weeks. 

"It's definitely reassuring that over the longer timeframe, cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk does seem to return to baseline levels," Emma Rezel-Potts, PhD, study author and epidemiologist at King's College London, told The Guardian. "But we do have to be cautious in the acute period with cardiovascular disease and take note that the risk of diabetes seems to be elevated for several months, so that could be a good opportunity for risk prevention." 

The findings are based on an analysis of EHR records from patients in the U.K. Researchers matched a cohort of 428,650 COVID-19 patients to a control of the same number of patients without COVID-19 to compare the risks of new diabetes and heart disease diagnoses in the 12 months after infection.


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