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Health & Wellness

Heart Problems Among Consistent Symptoms For COVID Long Haulers, New Research Finds

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A doctor checks a patient using a stethoscpe. The study found cardiovascular symptoms for long haulers included heart palpitations, fast heart rate, slow heart rate, chest pain, visible bulging veins, and fainting.

The study included more than 3,700 people from 56-countries with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 with illness lasting more than 28 days.

So-called "long haulers" experience symptoms that linger for days, weeks, even months after the virus has passed.

Dr. Sreenivas Gudimetla, a cardiologist with Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth and Texas Health Physicians Group talked with KERA’s Sam Baker about why the study's findings linking heart health issues and long haulers are concerning.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

What Kind Of Heart Problems?

Chest discomfort, shortness of breath, palpitations, long haulers tend to have these symptoms persist months after their active infection. You know, I've often seen patients who have complained of palpitations marked fatigue.

Potential for Heart Damage?

We’re not sure about long-term damage. What we typically worry about is a condition called myocarditis.

Sometimes viruses can cause inflammation of the heart and can cause weakening of the heart muscle that can result in congestive heart failure. A lot of times this is reversible. Sometimes it's not.

How COVID Causes Heart Problems

It causes the body to release substances into the bloodstream that increases the inflammatory response. We call them inflammatory cytokines that can cause tissue damage.

When it causes tissue damage, it can cause various effects, not just on the cardiovascular system, but other systems, including the blood system. We see in COVID-19 a propensity for the blood to clot. And so some patients with COVID-19 can get blood clots in their legs and in their lungs, which is very life-threatening.

The Delta variant

I'm very concerned because the Delta variant is far more transmissible and it could potentially be harder to treat.

The vaccine reduces the risk of death and reduces the occurrence of symptoms if you were to obtain or get reinfected with COVID-19. It's vitally important that people get the vaccine primarily for their own protection. If you don't and you get COVID-19, it could potentially be much more deadly.

RESOURCES:

COVID Long Haulers Study

COVID ‘Long Haulers’: Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

CDC: Post-COVID Conditions (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html)

What It Means to Be a Coronavirus “Long-Hauler”(https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-it-means-to-be-a-coronavirus-long-hauler/)

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at sbaker@kera.org. You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

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