OSU doctors research long-term effects of COVID-19 on hearts

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Research continues into the long-term impacts COVID-19 can have on your health.

But doctors at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center say the effect the virus can have on your heart could be a growing danger.

“As the pandemic progressed, we started to see more patients coming in with more advanced forms of heart and blood vessel/vascular type of diseases,” said Dr. Thomas Ryan, director of the Ohio State Heart and Vascular Center

Ryan says the virus can impact the heart in two ways.

“It can directly affect the heart by causing direct damage to the heart cells. Viruses can enter cells in the body and cause those cells to die so it can lead to heart damage through that mechanism and indirectly though inflammation,” Ryan said.

A recent study found abnormalities in the hearts of 78% of recovered patients two to three months after they had contracted COVID. Most patients in the study had not required hospitalization.

“You’re more likely to get those long-term side effects the sicker you get with coronavirus,” said Dr. Andrew Thomas, Chief Clinical Officer at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “But’s really a number of folks who don’t end up in the hospital, still are getting some of these long-term side effects that we hope will resolve weeks to months after their illness is done. But it is certainly a serious concern.”

Dr. Saurabh Rajpal has been studying the effects of COVID on athletes since the beginning of the pandemic. He says the effects do clear up after a few weeks or months.

“It’s very easy to treat. The treatment is rest. You rest for a few weeks. Usually, three months of rest is required, and myocarditis heals up,” Rajpal said.

However, those are in shape athletes being studied. Dr. Ryan says the real concern lies with older populations and those who have pre-existing conditions/risks.

“Patients that have a history of high blood pressure, coronary, artery disease, lung disease, smoking – this are all risk factors that increase the chance that a relatively mild and self-limited virus infection can actually become much more serious and lead to hospitalization,” Ryan said.

Ryan recommends anyone with certain symptoms should see their doctor.

“Anyone who had heart-related symptoms during their infection period including things like Irregular heartbeats, fainting spells, chest discomfort, serious shortness of breath – those are all symptoms that could indicate a heart problem and I think for those patients, seeking medical care is appropriate.”

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