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Your Heart Can Be 'On Fire' With COVID, Warns ER Doctor

An ER doctor details the “devastating” heart complications that some COVID-19 patients are experiencing.

On Friday, the American Heart Association released a report detailing the "devastating" and prolonged damage that a COVID-19 can wreak on the heart. In it, they explain that the virus, initially believed to be an infection diseasing the lungs, has proved to be just as detrimental to the blood pumping organ, causing "inflammation of the vascular system and injury to the heart." While the warning from the nation's top heart health organization may be shocking to most of us, there are some people who are surprised by this revelation as they have been witnessing it for months: ER doctors. 

Related: Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

COVID-19 Puts "Bodies on Fire"

"Basically this virus can put some patients' bodies on fire, including their hearts," Dr. Dara Kass, an emergency medicine physician at Columbia University Medical School, told CNN.

She added that it isn't just older adults or those with preexisting health conditions who are experiencing these devastating and prolonged manifestations of the virus. "We're seeing this damage happen in patients that are 30, 40 and 50 years old," she continued. "These aren't the patients that are elderly and immunocompromised … They're the patients that are surviving this virus, but now they're going to have a new chronic medical condition related to surviving this virus that we need to recognize and treat."

In the AHA's report, they pointed to startling statistics. For one, 20% to 30% of hospitalized patients are suffering inflammation of the vascular system, which is contributing to 40% of deaths. They also added that COVID-19 related heart damage is just as impactful when it comes to risk of death as other risk factors, including age, diabetes mellitus, chronic pulmonary disease or prior history of cardiovascular disease. 

Still More to Learn

"Much remains to be learned about COVID-19 infection and the heart. Although we think of the lungs being the primary target, there are frequent biomarker elevations noted in infected patients that are usually associated with acute heart injury. Moreover, several devastating complications of COVID-19 are cardiac in nature and may result in lingering cardiac dysfunction beyond the course of the viral illness itself," Mitchell S. V. Elkind, M.D., MS, FAHA, FAAN, president of the American Heart Association and  attending neurologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, explained in the statement. 

"The need for additional research remains critical. We simply don't have enough information to provide the definitive answers people want and need." As for yourself, to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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