This heart health problem may increase your COVID risk

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study, researchers found that atrial fibrillation (a-fib), a common heart rhythm problem, may increase the risk of COVID-19.

The research was done by a team at Yale New Haven Hospital/Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition that affects between 3 million and 6 million Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It arises when the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) beat erratically instead of maintaining a normal rhythm, which can either happen intermittently or be permanent.

In one study, researchers reviewed records from nearly 400 COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized at their center. About 20% of patients suffered an a-fib episode.

The team found that those who suffered an a-fib episode during their stay had a substantially worse prognosis—being more likely to develop heart or kidney complications or to die.

Their risks of other complications and death were heightened: More than half had a heart attack, compared to 30% of patients who did not have in-hospital a-fib.

And one-third developed heart failure, versus 9% of other COVID-19 patients.

Patients with in-hospital a-fib were also 2.5 times more likely to die or go into hospice.

For people with a history of a-fib, the findings underscore the importance of COVID-19 prevention.

The team says various factors can trigger the arrhythmia. It’s known that more-severe COVID-19 can cause widespread inflammation throughout the body, he noted, so that is one likely trigger.

Similarly, there are a few reasons why COVID-19 patients who suffer an a-fib episode have a worse outlook. For one, the a-fib might be a manifestation of a particularly severe infection.

But the arrhythmia, itself, may worsen damage to other organs, too.

It is important for hospital staff to closely monitor heart rhythm in COVID-19 patients with a history of a-fib.

One author of the studies is Dr. Zaniar Ghazizadeh.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting.

Copyright © 2020 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.