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People who had COVID have higher risk for stroke, heart attack, study shows

A study published this week shows those who recovered from Covid-19 have a 72 percent higher chance of heart failure one year later.

NEW ORLEANS — A new study shows, regardless of the severity, if you were infected with Covid-19, you are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Experts say the virus can hang around in your body, long after the infection is gone.

“The virus can not only inflame the person when they’re sick or ill, it can kind of lay low and come back and cause havoc to the blood vessels and heart later on in the disease process,” Tulane Medical School Cardiology Professor Dr. Keith Ferdinand said. “These viruses tend to sequester or hide themselves.”

A study published this week in the health journal Nature Medicine shows those who recovered from Covid-19 had a 63 percent higher risk of having a heart attack, 52 percent greater risk of stroke, and 72 percent higher chance of heart failure one year later.

“I’m stunned,” Dr. Nassir Marrouche, Director of Tulane’s Heart and Vascular Institute. “I expected way less, maybe 20, 30 percent increase in heart attacks and strokes.”

The study is based on an analysis of 150,000 Covid-positive, mostly older patients in the VA system.

Dr. Marrouche is conducting a similar study of younger, otherwise healthy people who caught the virus.

They are being monitored 24-7 with a special biometric wristband.

Marrouche says his patients also show lingering effects in heart rate, heart rhythm and sleep patterns.

“These indicators we are measuring, they’ve been shown to predict sudden cardiac death, heart attacks and heart failure in the past,” he said. “You’re at risk for a heart attack, for heart failure, for strokes.”

Dr. Ferdinand says we need to continue to study the long-term effects of Covid.

“Viruses actually inflame, not just the lungs, but they have been known to inflame the heart and to inflame the blood vessels,” Ferdinand said. “These viruses tend to sequester or hide themselves.”

A key takeaway in both Covid heart studies is if you had the virus, monitor your heart rate and if you have any symptoms, don’t ignore them, contact your doctor.

“The data that we’re seeing, a long time after the infection in the younger population tells me to believe that there’s a subgroup of people that have a long-term effect, long Covid effect that we cannot neglect, but rather monitor and take it seriously as soon as we detect it,” Marrouche said.

Doctors say age and the severity of your Covid case are not good predictors of whether you will eventually have heart or vascular problems.

See the full study here.

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