Covid-19 and Your Heart Rhythm
October 13, 2021
Despite being more than 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, I am frequently asked about the effects of COVID on the heart, and rightly so. While our understand has grown exponentially this past year, we still know relatively little about Covid and how it affects the heart. However, what we do know is that those with heart problems are at greater risk of complications due to the disease. The heart is a finely tuned muscle and Covid has been shown to affect the heart in several ways including inflammation in and around the heart, inflammation of blood vessels and damage due to stress and strain, amongst other things. Some patients have come to me with new or worsened irregular heart rhythms soon after having had Covid. While we are still unsure if this is caused by Covid or simply a coincidence, there is reason to be cautious.
What is the best way to avoid potential heart issues due to Covid?
As you have undoubtedly heard, vaccination is the best way to avoid the most serious complications of Covid, especially for those who are of advanced age or at higher risk due to cardiovascular concerns, for example. I strongly suggest that any of my patients who are at risk of heart disease get vaccinated. We can also discuss if a booster shot is appropriate. You can also have this discussion with your primary care physician or other medical specialists.
Doesn’t the Covid vaccine cause heart problems?
There have been some reports of vaccine related heart inflammation, but these have been few and far between. When you think of the many millions who have had the vaccine, a few cases are to be expected. In some cases, seemingly vaccine-related problems may be coincidence. With the large number of people being vaccinated, there will be more coincidental issues. Ultimately, while we are not 100% sure about the full effects of both the vaccine and Covid itself, we remain very confident that the likelihood of significant complications from Covid is significantly higher than any potential complications from the vaccine.
Is there any other way I can protect my heart?
Yes, absolutely! It is truly important that you modify your lifestyle to improve your diet and exercise. Unless you are exercising multiple times per week and eating a healthy balanced diet, there’s lots of room for improvement. Virtually all of us can do better, even me! An improved diet and exercise program not only reduces the risk of Covid related complications, but it reduces your risk of new or worsened cardiovascular problems.
Of course, if you have any questions about an irregular heartbeat or Covid-related heart issues, I encourage you to visit with me and discuss this at your next appointment. In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!
Written By: Dr. Andrea Tordini, electrophysiologist
Dr. Tordini is a part of Florida Medical Clinic in Tampa