People, who have had Covid-19, are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular complications within the first month to a year after infection, report a study.
The researchers showed that Covid amplified the risk of heart disease among people who were clearly at risk for a heart condition before becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2.
But most remarkably, people who have never had any heart problems and were considered low risk are also developing heart problems after Covid-19.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, showed that heart disease, including heart failure and death, occurred in 4 per cent more people than those who had not been infected with Covid-19, which can roughly be translated as 3 million people in the US who have suffered cardiovascular complications due to Covid.
Compared with those in the control groups without any infections, people who contracted Covid-19 were 72 per cent more likely to suffer from coronary artery disease, 63 per cent more likely to have a heart attack, and 52 per cent more likely to experience a stroke.
Overall, those infected with the virus were 55 per cent more likely than those without Covid-19 to suffer a major adverse cardiovascular event, which includes heart attack, stroke, and death.
"Covid-19 can lead to serious cardiovascular complications and death. The heart does not regenerate or easily mend after heart damage. These are diseases that will affect people for a lifetime," said Ziyad Al-Aly, Assistant Professor of medicine at Washington University in St.Louis.
More than 380 million people globally have been infected with the virus since the pandemic started.
"Consequently, Covid-19 infections have, thus far, contributed to 15 million new cases of heart disease worldwide," said Al-Aly.
"This is quite significant. For anyone who has had an infection, it is essential that heart health be an integral part of post-acute Covid care."
The researchers created a controlled dataset that included health information of 153,760 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 sometime from March 1, 2020, through January 15, 2021, and who had survived the first 30 days of the disease.
The findings emphasise the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 as a way to prevent heart damage, Al-Aly said.
He also advised governments and health systems around the world to get prepared to deal with the likely significant contribution of the Covid-19 pandemic to a rise in the burden of cardiovascular diseases.