Doctors have reported a significant surge in cases of heart attack and heart failure in the post-Covid period. According to cardiologists at Sarvodaya Hospital, Sector 8, Faridabad, such incidences have gone up by more than one-fourth in the last year.
Dr LK Jha, associate director, cardiology, Sarvodaya Hospital said, “After the pandemic, incidences of heart attacks and heart failure have increased by 25-30% in people who got infected with Covid. Patients who had to be hospitalized or put on a ventilator due to Covid are now much more vulnerable to heart complications, and we are seeing a considerable surge in such cases.”
There are two ways by which Covid affects the heart, he explained. First is a direct infection of the heart muscle, due to which it gets weakened, leading to heart failure. The second is that after Covid, a mild form of the infection persists in the body for many months. “The arteries remain inflamed, leading to the tendency of clotting inside the heart. This results in heart attack and other complications. Many incidents have come to light in recent months of sudden heart attacks in people after doing vigorous exercise. In these cases, the heart muscle may still be inflamed due to long Covid, triggering a heart attack.”
In the past year, the deaths of actor Sidharth Shukla, Kannada superstar Puneeth Rajkumar and more recently that of comedian Raju Srivastava after vigorous exercises have raised concerns over heart health. It is, however, not clear if their deaths have anything to do with Covid.
The doctor said that people who had a severe form of Covid need to take precautions. “It is difficult to predict heart problems in recovered Covid patients. But there are blood tests that measure inflammatory markers such as ESR and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP). These can tell whether any form of infection still exists in the body, and how much is the risk. It is advisable not to do any vigorous exercise for the next six months after getting a Covid infection. Only light exercises in the form of brisk walking or mild jogging are fine. Don’t indulge in any kind of strength training exercises such as weight-lifting or extreme treadmill because your heart may still be weak,” Dr. LK Jha added.
“We have seen an increase of 30% over the last five years in the number of young heart patients coming to the hospital. They are showing up with more extensive heart complications, with multiple blockages. Our advice is not to ignore any kind of symptoms, especially pain in the chest or upper part of the stomach,” the doctor said.
If one does any kind of activity such as brisk walking or climbing the stairs and feels any kind of stiffness or heaviness in the chest, the person should be very mindful. “Many people attribute heart-related symptoms to acidity or arthritis, but any gastritis that persists for 2-3 days is unusual. It is important in these cases to get tests done to rule out heart problems. Diabetes and tobacco are the top two risk factors for heart disease in India. Diabetic people have three times higher chances of having a heart attack than non-diabetic individuals. Smoking is very dangerous for the heart, due to which we are seeing many young heart patients.”