Heart Attack: Increase in heart attack deaths decoded? Severe COVID can cause lasting damage to the heart |

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A new study published in the journal Circulation has found that the coronavirus that causes COVID can damage the heart even without directly infecting the heart tissue. The researchers studied the damage to the hearts of people with COVID-associated serious lung conditions, ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome.
The findings of the study open up a whole new understanding of the link between this serious lung injury and the kind of inflammation that can lead to cardiovascular complications, says Michelle Olive, Ph.D., associate director of the Basic and Early Translational Research Program at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
The researchers focused on immune cells known as cardiac macrophages, which normally perform a critical role in keeping the tissue healthy but can turn inflammatory in response to injury such as heart attack or heart failure. The researchers analyzed heart tissue specimens from 21 patients who died from SARS-CoV-2-associated ARDS and compared them with specimens from 33 patients who died from non-COVID-19 causes. They also infected mice with SARS-CoV-2 to follow what happened to the macrophages after infection.
“What this study shows is that after a COVID infection, the immune system can inflict remote damage on other organs by triggering serious inflammation throughout the body – and this is in addition to damage the virus itself has directly inflicted on the lung tissue,” said Matthias Nahrendorf, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and senior author on the study. “These findings can also be applied more generally, as our results suggest that any severe infection can send shockwaves through the whole body.”

COVID’s impact on heart

COVID-19 can impact the heart in various ways, including myocardial injury, inflammation, and arrhythmias. The virus may directly infect heart cells, leading to myocarditis or damage to the heart muscle. Additionally, systemic inflammation and cytokine release triggered by the infection can exacerbate pre-existing heart conditions or cause new cardiovascular complications. Studies suggest that individuals with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of heart-related complications, including heart failure and myocardial infarction. Long-term effects on cardiac health, such as reduced cardiac function and increased risk of cardiovascular events, are also a concern among COVID-19 survivors. Regular monitoring and follow-up care are crucial for managing cardiac implications.

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