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Coronavirus and heart complications

Illustrations of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 is primarily a lung disease. But it can lead to heart problems too.

A study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that COVID-19 can worsen or even cause heart complications such as:

  • Heart infections and damage.
  • Heart attack.
  • Heart failure and an enlarged heart.
  • Rhythm problems.
  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Blood clots.

Heart failure is a particular concern in people with COVID-19. In one of the papers reviewed for the study, nearly 25% of patients with COVID-19 had acute heart failure when they were first found to have the virus. It wasn't clear whether the heart failure was caused by the virus or if the virus was worsening existing, undiagnosed heart failure.

The study also found that COVID-19 caused widespread inflammation throughout the body. The inflammation has the potential to rupture fatty plaque present on artery walls, causing blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Medications can cause problems too

Many of the medicines being looked at to treat COVID-19 may cause problems for people with heart problems too. These medicines include antivirals like remdesivir and the antibiotic azithromycin. They can negatively interact with heart drugs, such as blood pressure medicines, blood thinners or statins. On their own, the drugs used to treat COVID-19 can have such side effects as heart rhythm disturbances, too-low blood pressure and even heart damage.

What should you do?

If you have heart problems, stay in close touch with your doctor during the pandemic. Be sure to take all your heart medicines faithfully.

Also, be sure to follow basic coronavirus prevention practices:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • When you have to go out in public, stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
  • Wear a mask or cloth face covering when out in public.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces daily. 

Learn more about COVID-19 by visiting our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 7/20/2020

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