Risk factors

COVID-19 linked with short-term jump in CVD risk

Patients who contract COVID-19 have an increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes but generally return to baseline risk levels over time, a new study has found.

The UK population-based study found the risks of a heart issue jumped six-fold in the month post-infection, including an 11-fold rise in rates of pulmonary embolism.

Across those early weeks, venous thromboses also rose five-fold, while rates of myocardial infarction (MI), heart failure and stroke also increased.

Nevertheless, CVD risks dropped sharply after five weeks, tapering off to baseline or lower after another two months to one year.

Researchers arrived at the figures after analysing the records of almost 430,000 previously healthy patients with COVID-19 and an equal number of controls seen at UK GP practices in 2020 and 2021.

Patients were followed from diagnosis to four weeks, 5–12 weeks, and 13–52 weeks.

The authors from Kings College London noted that COVID-19 could lead to a proinflammatory “cytokine storm” with dysregulated immune response, platelet activation, hypercoagulability, endothelial cell dysfunction, and thromboembolism affecting multiple systems with potential for end-organ damage.

Cardiac manifestations of the virus included cardiac injury with elevated troponin levels, heart failure, acute MI and ischaemic stroke, they added in PLOS Medicine.

But an increase in blood glucose disorders was also seen, with diabetes mellitus (DM) diagnoses increasing by 81% in acute COVID-19 and remained elevated by 27% from 4–12 weeks after the infection.

“Advice to patients recovering from COVID-19 should include measures to reduce diabetes risk, including diet, weight management, and physical activity levels, especially in view of heightened baseline risk,” they wrote.

“CVD is increased early after COVID-19 infection, mainly from pulmonary embolism, atrial arrhythmias, and venous thromboses, and these risks are increased for up to three months.”

But there was some light at the end of the tunnel.

“People without pre-existing CVD or DM who suffer from COVID-19 do not appear to have a long-term increase in incidence of these conditions,” the researchers added.

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