Any infection with COVID-19—regardless of severity—seems to increase the risk of heart ailments for survivors, according to a new study that one researcher called “stunning.”
The study found an increased risk of 20 different heart and vessel issues for those who’ve had the virus a year earlier, Science magazine reported.
“Governments and health systems around the world should be prepared to deal with the likely significant contribution of the COVID-19 pandemic to a rise in the burden of cardiovascular diseases,” the paper read, according to the report.
Eric Topol, a cardiologist at Scripps Research, told the magazine that he was surprised by the findings and called the ailments “serious disorders.”
“If anybody ever thought that COVID was like the flu this should be one of the most powerful data sets to point out it’s not,” he said, referring to the study that ran in Nature Medicine earlier this week.
Reuters reported that the study found that those who recovered from the virus had about a 63% higher risk of having a heart attack and a 52% greater risk of stroke one year later. The news outlet also said those who recovered had a 72% higher risk of heart failure. The elevated risks seemed to impact everyone, regardless of sex, age or whether there were pre-existing conditions, the report said. The magazine pointed out that even those who were not hospitalized also had greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
The magazine said the analysis was based on data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and included health information from 154,000 people who had the virus. The control groups included millions who received care at these facilities during that pandemic and in 2017. One researcher told Science that there needs to be a follow-up study and raised the possibility that retrospective studies run the risk of having inaccuracies.
The research focused on individuals who were diagnosed with the virus from March 2020 to January 2021, so many were not vaccinated.
“What we’re seeing isn’t good. COVID-19 can lead to serious cardiovascular complications and death. The heart does not regenerate or easily mend after heart damage. These are diseases that will affect people for a lifetime,” one of the co-authors wrote.