Research into the effects of COVID-19 is ongoing. However, early evidence suggests a link between heart disease and COVID-19 complications.

COVID-19 attacks the blood vessels and, in some cases, infects the heart. This may increase the risk of developing heart disease.

People with preexisting heart disease or heart disease risk factors also risk developing severe COVID-19 complications.

Researchers do not fully understand COVID-19. Research into its role in heart disease continues. However, early data shows a clear link between heart disease and COVID-19 complications.

People with heart disease can reduce their risk of COVID-19 complications by managing their heart disease and controlling risk factors.

Additionally, people can lower their risk of developing COVID-related heart disease by getting the COVID-19 vaccine, masking when appropriate, and avoiding people who are sick.

This article explores the link between COVID-19 and heart disease.

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A 2020 study found evidence of inflammation of the endothelial cells of the heart, blood vessels, and other organs in people with COVID-19.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infects certain cells with the ACE-2 receptor, which is found on endothelial cells. This suggests that COVID-19 may have the same effect on the heart as on the lungs.

Damage to the endothelial tissue makes it harder for the body to prevent dangerous clots and causes inflammation.

A 2022 study found that people who have had COVID-19, even mild cases that did not require hospitalization, have a much higher risk of developing issues such as:

According to another 2022 study using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall rate of death from heart attack increased during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the prepandemic period.

This suggests that even in healthy people with mild COVID-19, the coronavirus may damage the heart, triggering long-term disease.

Read more about the links between COVID-19 and the heart.

Heart disease is more common in people who have had COVID-19 than people who have not. Rates of heart disease increased during the pandemic, and a person’s risk increases after having COVID-19.

Researchers do not fully understand why this occurs, but evidence suggests that the coronavirus directly attacks the heart and blood vessels. This may explain why some people develop heart complications and blood clots during or after COVID-19.

Instances of the following conditions can increase in people after having COVID-19:

Public health officials have considered heart disease a risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection and death since the early days of the pandemic.

A 2022 study with 5,133 people with COVID-19 found that heart disease risk factors may also affect disease severity. Researchers found that the presence of risk factors was the main factor increasing a person’s risk of death, not heart disease itself.

Some heart disease risk factors include:

  • smoking
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • a diet high in saturated or trans fats

Additionally, merely having COVID-19 can increase a person’s risk of numerous heart complications, such as:

Because COVID-19 can increase the risk of heart disease even in healthy people, it is a good idea to have a checkup after recovering from COVID-19. A doctor can assess a person’s heart health and determine whether a referral to a cardiologist is appropriate.

A person should also contact a doctor if they:

  • develop new or worsening symptoms of heart disease, such as:
  • experience symptoms of long COVID
  • have symptoms of severe COVID-19, such as difficulty breathing

People should seek emergency care for sudden symptoms, such as:

  • chest pain
  • numbness
  • loss of consciousness
  • signs of stroke, such as a drooping face

COVID-19 is a heart disease risk factor even in healthy people.

Heart disease is also a risk factor for severe COVID-19. People with preexisting heart disease or heart disease risk factors may have a higher risk of heart attack and other serious complications after having COVID-19.

Preventing COVID-19 may lower a person’s risk of heart problems. If a person has already had COVID-19, a heart-healthy lifestyle that reduces risk factors can help manage their heart health.