Had Covid? Be Cautious of Your Heart Risk If You’re Part of This Group, New Study Suggests

Updated: Jul. 02, 2024

As summer cases surge, Polish researchers have identified conditions that could lead to an "extremely high risk" of heart attack or stroke after Covid infection.

If you or someone you know has needed to cash in a sick day, it’s part of a trend: According to the CDC’s data tracker, Covid cases have been on the rise in at least 44 states, with a 1.4% increase in reported positive cases in the past week. Protective measures like masking, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing can help short-term Covid infection—but a new study suggests they may also prevent long-term health complications, especially for certain demographics.

Beyond the Covid symptoms we all know, such as congestion, headache, or shortness of breath, infection can also lead to sustained issues with memory and cognition, respiratory problems and even cardiovascular complications. These long-term issues could affect anyone who catches Covid, so protective measures are always a good idea—but some Americans are more vulnerable than others, and it’s important to know if you’re at a heightened risk. For example, a new study published in Heart & Lung highlights which people could be most vulnerable to heart problems in particular.

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Led by a team of 12 virus researchers, the study followed 1,964 adult patients diagnosed with Covid-19 who were admitted to the Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Warsaw, Poland between March 2020 and November 2021.

Of those patients, 14.3% had cardiovascular complications, including 6.36% who had arrhythmias, 5.5% who suffered thromboembolic events (when a blood clot forms a blockage) and 2.39% who experienced a heart attack and/or stroke.

The researchers identified three common factors among these patients that were associated with “especially pronounced” cardiovascular complications. First, the median age of patients who experienced these issues was typically older, around 74 years old, compared to a median age of about 63 years for patients with no heart complications.

Also, patients with pre-existing heart disease and patients with a severe case of pneumonia when they received care were also more vulnerable to future heart issues associated with Covid-19 infection.

The researchers also observed a few other patterns among patients with heart problems: High blood pressure, diabetes and nicotine addiction were more common among these patients—and patients with dementia and hemiplegia, or paralysis of one side of the body, had an “extremely high risk” of heart attacks and strokes, according to the study.

The risk of cardiovascular complications underscores the need for continued vigilance in preventing Covid-19 infections, especially for older adults and those with underlying health conditions. No matter your level of vulnerability, though, the best defense against potential severe outcomes is still preventing infection in the first place. Wearing masks, practicing social distancing and getting vaccinated remain essential to both protect yourself from immediate infection—and reduce your risk of enduring health issues.