ARS TECHNICA – A bout of COVID-19 can take a hefty toll on the heart and blood vessels; people who recover from the infection have substantially higher risks of developing any of 20 serious cardiovascular disorders in the year following their recovery.
Those disorders include heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), and blood clots in the lungs.
Cardiovascular risks increase with the severity of an infection—that is, people who need intensive care for COVID-19 face the highest cardiovascular risks.
But, overall, the pandemic virus appears to be indiscriminate, wreaking havoc on cardiovascular systems and increasing risks in all groups of patients, from those with mild disease, to the young, to those without underlying conditions or pre-existing cardiovascular diseases.
That’s all according to an open-access study involving more than 11 million veterans published this week in Nature Medicine by researchers at the VA St. Louis Health Care System and Washington University in St. Louis.
“Because some COVID-19 vaccines are also linked to myocarditis, [researchers] conducted two separate analyses to eliminate any possible contribution that vaccination could play in increasing risk. Both analyses held that COVID-19 alone could increase the risk of myocarditis.”
The study tapped into a massive database of health records at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has data from patients at 1,255 health care facilities across the US.
The clinical epidemiologists focused on 153,760 veterans who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 1, 2020 and January 15, 2021 and survived at least 30 days afterward.
They then assembled a comparison group of 5.6 million veterans from the same period who did not test positive and a historical comparison group that included health records from 2017 from an additional 5.9 million veterans.
The authors then looked at the incidence of 20 pre-determined serious cardiovascular diseases over the course of a year in the three cohorts.
They also calculated the excess burden of disease that linked with COVID-19.