When the COVID-19 pandemic began, epidemiologists made a striking observation. Relative to the general population, people with cardiovascular disease (HVZ) were more than twice as likely to contract severe forms of COVID-19. In recent times, mortality rates from COVID-19 have decreased significantly, but HVZ remains a major trigger of poor outcome. What have we learned about heart disease and COVID-19 in that time?
Heart disease and poor metabolic health increase the risk of severe COVID-19
Some health conditions, such as diabetes, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 by suppressing the immune system; others, such as asthma, increase the risk by weakening the lungs. However, in the first months of the pandemic, it was not entirely clear how HVZ increased the risk of severe COVID-19. Fortunately, we now have two explanations for this.
- The first is that pre-existing heart conditions, such as damaged heart muscle or clogged heart arteries, weaken the body's ability to survive the stress of the disease. A person with a fragile heart is more likely to succumb to the effects of fever, low oxygen levels, unstable blood pressure and blood clotting disorders - all possible consequences of COVID-19 - than someone who was previously healthy.
- A second explanation relates to poor underlying metabolic health, which is more common in people with heart disease. Poor metabolic health refers to diseases such as type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes and obesity, which themselves cause inflammation and the risk of blood clots, amplifying the effects of COVID-19 and increasing the likelihood of devastating complications from COVID-19.
How does COVID-19 cause heart damage?
SARS-CoV-2 virus can damage the heart in several ways.
For example, the virus can directly enter or inflame the heart muscle, and it can indirectly harm the heart through the imbalance between oxygen supply and the amount of oxygen needed.
Cardiac injury, which can be measured by elevated levels of the enzyme troponin in the bloodstream, has been observed in about a quarter of patients, who were hospitalized with severe COVID-19 disease. It appears that approximately one-third of these patients have pre-existing HVZ.
Reducing the risk of HVZ through a healthy lifestyle
People with cardiovascular disease, who improve their health by living healthier, can strengthen their defenses against COVID-19 while reducing the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease. This means lots of exercise and following a healthy diet. Consider the Mediterranean diet. Cook at home when you can, and walk outside with friends if your gym is temporarily closed. Buy a cheap and easy-to-use monitor to measure your blood pressure at home.
Did you read this story and do you want to keep a close eye on your heart with a blood test ? Then click on the link below to go to the tests.
Or take the National Health Check for a general check-up with the most important vitamins: