With the omicron surge seemingly behind us, health leaders are turning to the pandemic’s next set of challenges: the long term impact of COVID on heart health.
The president of the American Heart Association is projecting a tidal wave of heart disease cases linked directly and indirectly to COVID.
Doctors say they have seen an increase in COVID patients with widely fluctuating heart rate weeks and months after they recover from the virus.
“I have seen tachicardia where the heart rate is higher and lower,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, UCSF infectious disease specialist.
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But Gandhi said it’s not clear if the heart condition is related directly to the COVID virus itself. She says pandemic stress may also play a role.
“We’re seeing a lot of anxiety, It’s called broken heart syndrome where you can get heart problems from living with all this anxiety,” said Gandhi.
Another factor is that many people put off routine heart health checks during the pandemic.
The good news -- emerging research suggests vaccines may help reduce heart issues in COVID patients.
“It seems to have an effect on long COVID heart and lung. It seems to organize your immunity and almost reverses long COVID symptoms. It’s quite remarkable,” said Gandhi.
But the health and economic impacts of long COVID are still looming with doctors at Mayo Clinic now projecting ongoing health problems may prevent an estimated two million Americans from ever returning to work.