Covid-19 is so new that not even doctors know everything about it yet. It’s becoming clear, though, that it’s more than just a respiratory condition. In fact, emerging evidence demonstrates that it is also linked to heart damage.
Cardiologists are seeing patients who have recovered from COVID-19 yet have signs of inflammation and scar formation in their hearts. Patients who had the coronavirus are encouraged to get a heart scan to rule out any heart damage before participating in vigorous exercise. Experts believe that testing is not necessary for those who were asymptomatic or had a mild case, but for a severe case, particularly if the patient was hospitalized, a blood test and electrocardiogram are necessary before returning to strenuous exercise. Athletes must be symptom-free for at least 14 days before returning to sports, and should resume activities slowly, continuing to be monitored for COVID heart damage.
Any competitive athlete who has had COVID-19 should be examined by a primary care physician to determine whether further evaluation by a cardiologist is needed. Recently, a study of 26 college athletes who had tested positive for COVID-19 determined that 15 percent showed signs of myocarditis, which can cause heart failure and sudden cardiac death. It’s difficult to know the appropriate level of concern, however, since the study sample was so small.
COVID-19 affects many different organs in the body, causing an inflammatory response, primarily impacting the respiratory system and heart. With coronavirus, heart damage can be caused by a direct infection that causes arrhythmias and can sometimes mimic a heart attack. These are not the only organs COVID-19 can impact. Brain problems and stroke have also been reported, along with brain fog, where people feel their thinking is not as good as it was before COVID-19. Because it’s a cardiovascular disease, it can cause clots, pulmonary embolisms, and other blood vessel problems. There is much we don’t know about coronavirus, so research is ongoing.
Here’s what we know right now: screenings are recommended that high school athletes, competitive sports athletes, and recreational masters athletes over age 35 who have had COVID-19. The type of test will vary between people, so talk to your doctor about which of these is right for you.
- Electrocardiograms (EKG or ECG) record the electrical signals in your heart to detect arrhythmias.
- Echocardiograms use sound waves to create images of the heart and detect problems with the valves or chambers.
- Troponin blood tests measure the level of proteins in the blood that are released when the heart muscle sustains damage.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates detailed images of the heart to determine size, function, damage, structural problems, or inflammation.
If you need medical care in Texas, Exceptional Healthcare can help, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even on holidays. With 13 different locations across Texas to serve you, we’re here to help when you have an emergency. Visit our website to learn more or drop by to see our facilities for yourself.