Covid-19 infection can directly or indirectly have an adverse effect on the heart during infection as well as post-recovery. Long-term complications are observed post-recovery because Covid -19 causes inflammation in the body’s organs, and the risk of fatality may increase manifold in cases of pre-existing conditions of old age, poor cardiac health, obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Inflammation in heart muscles and heart vessels is found to be the biggest cause of damage (when the virus invades the heart cells, causing cardiac tissue injury, leading to myocarditis). Women have a 9 times higher risk of death by heart attack, especially if they are hospitalized. Covid-19 infection creates conditions which are conducive to thrombus (clotting) formation.
Covid-19 can affect the heart in the following ways:
- Decreased heart function
- Imbalance between demand and supply of oxygen to heart cells
- Heart attack
- Clot formation in the arteries
- Changes in cardiac rate
- Heart failure
Post-Covid-19 cardiac care
Cardiac screening and evaluation
- Blood test for evaluation of levels of the following cardiac biomarkers:
- CK (Creatinine Kinase) & CK-MB: Elevated levels of these enzymes indicate heart damage.
- Cardiac Troponin-T & Troponin-I: These are said to be the best biomarker for heart attack. They are highly sensitive proteins which enter the bloodstream after a heart attack and their elevated levels indicate high risk of heart attack.
- Myoglobin: This is a protein that stores oxygen. Combined with other biomarkers, it can help diagnose a heart attack.
- B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP): This enzyme is checked to determine stress on the heart and the risk of heart failure after a heart attack.
- Other blood tests
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride)
- Lipid profile (cholesterol and triglycerides)
- Blood sugar (glucose)
- Other tests
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart muscles
- TMT stress test
Steps to a healthy heart
- Diet: Increase the intake of fresh green leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts which are rich in vitamins, proteins and minerals and have antioxidant properties. Replace your routine atta with multigrain flour (complex carbohydrates). Avoid saturated fats like ghee, butter, red meats and deep-fried food. Restrict the intake of sugar and salt.
- Physical activity: Aerobic exercises like walking, lifting light weights, and yoga are advisable under strict supervision of the doctor. Avoid strenuous exercise.
- Adequate sleep
- Quit smoking
- Restrict alcohol intake
- Diligent intake of medicines advised by your doctor.
- Regular follow-up with a cardiologist.