What is the link between COVID-19 and Heart Attack?

During the Navratri celebrations in Gujarat, a disturbing incident occurred where several people suffered heart attacks while participating in the traditional Garba dance. The Union Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, highlighted this issue, expressing concern over the reported heart attack cases during the Garba event.

Notably, within a period of 24 hours, at least 10 people, including a 13-year-old boy, lost their lives to heart attacks. Particularly, in just 24 hours, at least ten people, including a 13-year-old child, died from heart attacks.

Referring to the Gujarat Incident, Union Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya said that Individuals who have had severe Covid-19 should avoid engaging in strenuous physical activities or exerting themselves excessively for a period of 1 to 2 years post-recovery to prevent sudden cardiac arrest. He referenced a study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in his statement.

Link Between COVID-19 and Heart Attacks

  • Inflammation and Blood Clots- COVID-19 infection has been associated with a significant increase in blood clot formation throughout the body. Blood clots can obstruct blood vessels, which could lead to heart attacks. Some European studies have reported that 20 to 30 per cent of severely ill Covid-19 patients experience this complication.
  • Stress on the Cardiovascular System- The infection causes fever and inflammation which accelerate the heart rate and increase metabolic demands on many organs, including the heart. When infected lungs are incapable of effectively exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide, stressed hearts may suffer damage due to insufficient oxygen, further increasing the risk of heart-related issues.
  • A German study found that 76 per cent of individuals with Covid-19 showed evidence of biomarker damage to their hearts similar to the damage caused by heart attacks. Additionally, 60 per cent of individuals recovering from the virus exhibited ongoing inflammation of the heart muscle, which could potentially lead to heart attacks.
  • Increased Risk Post Infection- Observations suggest that COVID-19 increases the chances of having a heart attack or stroke for up to a year after infection, especially for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions. Although the specific mechanisms remained unclear for a while, recent research has begun to unveil these links.
  • Infection in Arterial Tissue- SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, has been found to infect artery wall tissue, causing inflammation in atherosclerotic plaques. This inflammation could potentially lead to heart attacks or strokes, especially in individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular issues.

ICMR’s Scientific Study

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is actively looking into how Covid-19 affects the heart. They found that there could be sudden deaths from heart attacks after someone gets infected with the virus. This is worrying, especially as more young people seem to be facing sudden heart problems.

So, ICMR has started two big studies focusing on young adults between 18 to 45 years old to understand this better. Besides these, they have three more studies going on to closely examine why heart attacks are happening among young people after recovering from COVID-19.

Union Health Minister’s Involvement

The Health Minister has had multiple meetings with scientists regarding the sudden deaths due to heart attacks, and data about vaccination and comorbidity is being utilized in the ongoing studies. The results of the current studies conducted by ICMR are expected in the next two months.

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