The effects of COVID on your heart are widespread, and can happen to anyone—from those with severe illness to those with no initial symptoms at all.
From the beginning of the pandemic, we saw the effects that COVID could have on heart and lung health for people with severe illness. But we’ve learned a lot about the virus over the past few years – and we’ve seen that symptoms affecting heart health can be widespread, and can happen even after you’ve recovered.
“COVID is still so new and we’re learning more about it every day,” says cardiologist Talya Spivack, MD. “Each person’s experience of the illness is individualized—some have severe illness from the beginning and some experience ‘long hauler’ symptoms that can appear after recovery and last for weeks or months.”
Heart conditions associated with COVID include:
- Myocarditis, or inflammation and weakness of the heart muscle
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Autonomic dysfunction, or difficulty regulating blood pressure and heart rate
- Long hauler syndrome, or symptoms that onset or persist after recovery from a COVID infection
Certain people are more at risk for heart problems if infected with COVID, including those who have high blood pressure, diabetes, are obese or older in age. However, even those without a severe case of COVID have been known to develop long hauler syndrome later—the causes of these symptoms are still being researched. “People can experience mild or even asymptomatic illness and still feel symptoms of long hauler syndrome, like shortness of breath, chest pain and heart palpitations,” says Dr. Spivack.
Heart problems related to COVID are treated as they arise; treatments depend on a person’s health history and symptoms. While there are no COVID-specific treatments for heart problems, your provider might prescribe medications such as corticosteroids for myocarditis, beta-blockers for heart palpitations or ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure. Other treatment plans may involve lifestyle changes, cardiac event monitors or physical therapy.
People with heart palpitations may be prescribed a monitor to determine if further treatment is needed. If you’re at high risk for severe disease, your doctor may suggest monoclonal antibody treatment in case of a COVID infection.
“The best prevention is to protect yourself from getting COVID: get vaccinated and assess your level of risk with activities,” says Dr. Spivack. “If you’re concerned about the risk of myocarditis with vaccination, know that the risk of developing this condition is much higher if you’re unvaccinated and infected with COVID. Don’t wait to get vaccinated.”