A COVID-19 infection may impact heart health for years

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Health officials have spent decades trying to decrease the number of deaths caused by heart disease. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, their decades-long efforts have hit a major setback.

In a new report released by the American Heart Association published in Circulation, authors predict a global cardiovascular disease crisis. The number of deaths attributed to the disease, they say, is likely to grow exponentially in the years to come as the long-term effects of a coronavirus infection continue to unfold.

Dr. William Gill, president of the board of directors for the American Heart Association’s Indiana branch, explained why it’s likely.

“For people that have been afflicted by COVID-19–unbeknownst and in some cases known to them–the coronavirus can affect the heart directly and can result in a thing we call myocarditis. Myocarditis can result in congestive heart failure. It can be a lifelong curse as far as the disease process that they have to cope with.”

Congestive heart failure, Gill says, is a disease that requires chronic management and in most cases intensive treatment to prevent further decline and premature death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women irrespective of most racial or ethnic groups in the U.S. It accounts for 1 in 4 deaths across the nation each year. In Indiana, that number, Gill says, is 1 in 3.

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Facebook @DrMaryGillis.