COVID-19 infections can cause potentially life-threatening heart issues.
Studies suggest that people with COVID-19 are 55% more likely to suffer a major adverse cardiovascular event, including heart attack, stroke and death, than those without COVID-19.
They’re also more likely to have other heart issues, like arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).
In a study from Columbia University, scientists examined some of the changes that occur in the heart that could lead to these problems.
In heart tissue from patients who had COVID-19, the team found increases in oxidative stress (harmful production of unstable molecules) and signals of inflammation, as well as changes in calcium.
They also found adverse changes to a protein called RyR2, which is responsible for regulating the heart’s calcium ion levels.
The heart muscle, like all muscle cells, needs calcium ions to contract.
The heart’s system for managing calcium ions is essential for the coordinated contractions of the atria and ventricles that pump blood throughout the body.
When calcium in the heart becomes dysregulated, it can cause arrhythmias or heart failure.
To study changes to the heart further, the team used a mouse model infected with COVID-19.
They found changes to the heart tissue including immune cell infiltration, collagen deposition (indicative of injury), death of heart cells, and blood clots.
They also measured changes to the heart proteome—the proteins that are expressed by the heart cells—and found patterns consistent with changes observed to human hearts that were infected with COVID-19, as well as markers of cardiomyopathy, which can make it harder for the heart to pump blood to the body and can lead to heart failure.
The team says the more awareness scientists build around particular aspects of a disease, the more likely they are to improve the care of patients.
And doctors should be aware of heart changes related to COVID-19 infections and should be looking for them.
If you care about COVID, please read studies about Vitamin D deficiency linked to severe COVID-19, and scientists find new drug to treat both COVID-19 and cancer.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about which COVID vaccine you get could affect your heart inflammation risk, and results showing Aspirin is linked to one quarter higher risk of heart failure.
The study was conducted by Andrew Marks et al and published in at the 67th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting.
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