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The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Cardiovascular Disease

The pandemic may very well be an "underappreciated CVD risk modifier", according to the CDC.



 

It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic affected almost all aspects of life. From our social lives to our health, there seems to be not a single aspect of life that is untouched by the pandemic. Even now, three years after the pandemic first began, we see remnants of how it ravaged our nation's healthcare system and the long term impacts it had on patients’ health. One relatively understated impact the COVID pandemic had on healthcares is the effect it had on cardiovascular disease.


Following the worst of the pandemic, studies have found that patients who contracted COVID-19 may have complications with their recovery. Though COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, the heart can still suffer damage caused by overwork due to lack of oxygen, inflammation, or cardiomyopathy. As coronavirus affects the lungs, the heart must work overtime in order to pump adequate amounts of oxygen into the bloodstream and to all body parts, which can lead to heart failure. Coronavirus may also directly cause inflammation of the heart, similar to the reaction caused by some strains of influenza. Viral infections such as COVID can also cause cardiomyopathy, a disorder that impacts the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.


Perhaps one of the most serious complications that can arise however, is cytokine storm. When fighting infections such as the coronavirus, the body releases proteins called cytokines, which help cells signal with each other and fight off the infections. However, in a cytokine storm, which can be triggered due to genetic factors or other pre existing issues, the body releases life-threatening amounts of cytokines, which results in the destruction and/or damaging of healthy tissue and vital organs such as the liver and the heart. Damage to the heart due to a cytokine storm can cause catastrophic arrhythmia. As such, cytokine storms are extremely difficult to survive.


Recent studies also suggest that COVID-19 increases patients’ risk for cardiovascular disease. One study by the University of Oslo found that patients who were hospitalized with severe COVID-19 had permanent changes in their cholesterol levels three months after recovery. Researchers found that the composition of so-called “bad cholesterol” contained more inflammatory substances in patients that recovered from severe COVID-19. While the cause for this phenomenon is still unknown, researchers believe that it could increase patients’ risk of developing heart disease.


Though many of the issues may not seem significant, to individuals and communities that do not have adequate access to quality healthcare, they are devastating. Without access to quality cardiovascular care, many patients suffer, and their families are forced to make impossible decisions. These studies spark a greater conversation on the impact COVID-19 had on different socioeconomic classes, and how cardiovascular care greatly differs between them. They also shed light on the urgency of the situation, and urge onlookers to take action to bridge the gap and provide quality cardiovascular care for all.



 

Sources


“Heart Problems after COVID-19.” Www.hopkinsmedicine.org, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/heart-problems-after-covid19.


“Severe COVID-19 Increases the Risk of Developing Heart Disease Later in Life.” News-Medical.net, 17 Mar. 2023, www.news-medical.net/news/20230317/Severe-COVID-19-increases-the-risk-of-developing-heart-disease-later-in-life.aspx. Accessed 9 Aug. 2023.



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