Risk of new heart problems much higher after COVID recovery

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Long after recovery from COVID-19, people face significantly higher risks for new heart problems, a large study has found.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs compared rates of new cardiovascular problems in 153,760 individuals infected with the coronavirus before vaccines were available, 5.6 million people who did not catch the virus, and another 5.9 million people whose data was collected before the pandemic.

An average of one year after their recovery from the acute phase of the infection, the COVID-19 survivors had a 63% higher risk for heart attack, a 69% higher risk for problematic irregular heart rhythm, a 52% higher risk of stroke, a 72% higher risk of heart failure, and a nearly three times higher risk of a potentially fatal blood clot in the lungs compared with the other two groups, according to a report published in Nature Medicine.

The elevated risks among former COVID-19 patients were evident in young and old, Blacks and whites, males and females, people with and without diabetes and with and without kidney disease, as well as smokers and nonsmokers, said Ziyad Al-Aly of the VA St. Louis Health Care System and Washington University in St. Louis.

The risks were high even in people who had mild COVID-19 and did not need to be hospitalized for it, he noted in a Twitter thread. “It really spared no one,” Al-Aly told Reuters.

“People with COVID-19 should pay attention to their health and seek medical care if they experience symptoms like chest pain, chest pressure, palpitation, swelling in the legs, etc.”

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