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90,000 excess cardiovascular deaths in US linked to Covid-19 over 2 years


Researchers believe that Covid-19 played a significant role in this increase, as it has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems even up to a year after infection

From March 2020 to March 2022, the United States witnessed around 90,000 more deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease than expected for that period, says a new study carried out by the National Library of Medicine reported by New York Times. While the majority occurred in individuals aged 65 and older, a surprising rise in heart-related deaths was observed among younger adults, particularly those aged 25 to 44. 

Researchers believe that Covid-19 played a significant role in this increase, as it has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems even up to a year after infection.

Cardiologists’ leading theory is that Covid-19 triggers widespread inflammation in the body, which can have dire consequences for the cardiovascular system. Inflammation can cause plaque in arteries to rupture, leading to blood clots and resulting in heart attacks or strokes. Individuals with pre-existing plaque, such as smokers and those with high blood pressure and cholesterol, face the greatest risk of a Covid-induced heart attack. In some cases, inflammation can lead to clot formation even in individuals with no pre-existing plaque.

“Mounting data demonstrates that a proportion of COVID-19-affected individuals are at increased risk for thrombogenic events, including acute coronary events, either during or following the acute infection phase,” the research explains. “It is also possible that the excess in cardiovascular risks observed during earlier phases of the pandemic was associated to generally more severe COVID-19 illness caused by more virulent variants of SARS-CoV-2.” 

The potential for cardiovascular complications persists even after recovering from Covid-19, the study reveals.

The research tracked medical records of nearly 700,000 patients in the US which revealed a significantly higher risk of various heart-related diseases in the year following a Covid infection. 

This includes a 1.5 times higher risk of stroke, nearly double the risk of heart attack, and a 1.6 to 2.4 times higher risk of different types of arrhythmias.

Some of these complications may be due to the lingering effects of the infection, while others may develop because Covid-19 is associated with the onset of risk factors for heart disease, particularly hypertension, the study points out. Approximately 21 percent of hospitalized Covid patients and nearly 11 percent of those with milder infections went on to develop high blood pressure in the following months.

Vaccination makes redeeming difference

Vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people who contract Covid-19. Vaccinated individuals are approximately 40 to 60 percent less likely to experience these heart-related issues compared to the unvaccinated, the research confirms.This protection may result from the reduced severity of Covid-19 in vaccinated individuals, which, in turn, lowers the risk of cardiovascular complications. Alternatively, the vaccine may help protect the cardiovascular system itself by mitigating the inflammatory effects of Covid-19.

While there is a small risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) following mRNA Covid vaccines, such as those from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, the risk of myocarditis after a Covid infection is much higher, especially in males aged 12 to 29. In fact, males in this age group were four to eight times more likely to develop myocarditis after a Covid infection than after receiving a vaccine. For males aged 30 and older, the risk of myocarditis was 28 times higher from Covid-19 than from the vaccine.

“Excess rates of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) deaths (per 100,000 persons) were seen during the pandemic across all subgroups, and particularly in the youngest age group, even when accounting for seasonality of events,” the study says.

If you have recently had Covid-19 and are experiencing cardiovascular symptoms or have risk factors for heart disease, it is crucial to contact your doctor promptly. Regular check-ups are essential for monitoring your cardiovascular health, particularly if you have had Covid-19. Meanwhile, adopting heart-healthy habits such as regular exercise and a balanced diet can help mitigate some of the risks associated with Covid-19 and cardiovascular health.

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