People with COVID-19 retain higher risks of heart disease, death for 18 months

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In a study from the University of Hong Kong, scientists found COVID-19 is linked to higher risks of heart disease and death in the short- and long term.

They examined nearly 160,000 participants and found that compared to uninfected people, the death risk was up to 81 times higher in the first three weeks of infection and remained five times higher up to 18 months later.

The team says COVID-19 patients were more likely to develop numerous cardiovascular conditions compared to uninfected participants, which may have contributed to their higher risks of death.

The findings indicate that patients with COVID-19 should be monitored for at least a year after recovering from the acute illness to diagnose cardiovascular complications of the infection, which form part of long COVID.

In the study, the team compared heart conditions and death in infected versus uninfected people.

More than 7,500 patients with COVID-19 infection diagnosed from March 16, 2020 to November 30, 2020 were identified from UK Biobank.

In these groups, the average age was 66 years and there were nearly equal numbers of women and men.

The team found that compared with the two uninfected groups, patients with COVID-19 were approximately four times more likely to develop major cardiovascular disease in the acute phase and 40% more likely in the post-acute phase.

Compared to uninfected people, the risk of death in COVID-19 patients was up to 81-fold higher in the acute phase and five-fold higher in the post-acute phase.

Patients with severe COVID-19 were more likely to develop major cardiovascular disease or die than non-severe cases.

COVID-19 patients had a greater likelihood of several heart conditions compared with uninfected participants in both the short- and long-term.

Risks of some health conditions—for example, stroke and atrial fibrillation—were elevated in COVID-19 patients in the short term but then returned to normal levels.

Previous research has indicated that COVID-19 vaccination may prevent complications, and the team says further studies are needed to test its effectiveness in reducing the risks of heart disease and death after COVID-19 infection.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and COVID-19 increases risk of long-term brain problems.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about new way to heal heart muscle, and results showing how to remove plaques that cause heart attacks.

The study was conducted by Professor Ian C.K. Wong et al and published in Cardiovascular Research.

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