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Even mild COVID can cause long-term heart damage

By Lynn Allison From Newsmax


A new study confirms that lingering effects of a COVID-19 infection, also known as Long COVID, can impact cardiovascular health. The research conducted by an international team of scientists found that people infected by even mild cases of COVID-19 experienced stiffer and more dysfunctional arteries two to three months after infection. And the condition worsened over time.

This damaging side effect could lead to cardiovascular disease development, says SciTechDaily. Stiffness of the arteries is associated with impaired blood vessel performance and the aging process. The study co-author, Maria Perissiou, from the University of Portsmouth’s School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science in the U.K., said, “We were surprised to observe such a decline in vascular health, which deteriorated even further with time since COVID-19 infection. Usually, you’d expect inflammation to decrease with time after infection, and for all the physiological functions to go back to normal or a healthy level.”

Perissiou says that further research is needed to uncover the reason this phenomenon is occurring, but she speculates that COVID-19 infection triggers the autoimmune process that leads to deterioration of the vascular system. This long-term effect needs to be further explored, she said.

Study participants were monitored between October 2019 and April 2022 in the Laboratory for Vascular Aging at the University of Split School of Medicine in Croatia. The scientists were able to obtain baseline measurements from the study subjects before the pandemic from another study investigating arterial stiffness. Most of the participants were younger than 40. According to SciTechDaily, only 9% had high blood pressure, and none had high cholesterol levels. Two had diabetes and 78% didn’t smoke. The group was almost evenly split with 56% males, and 44% females.

Ana Jeroncic, from the University of Split, who led the study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, said, “Given the number of people infected with COVID-19 worldwide, the fact that infection can have harmful effects on cardiovascular health in young people who had a mild form of the disease warrants close monitoring. The question remains as to whether this harmful effect is irreversible or permanent, and if not, for how long it lasts.”

Previous research has documented that among nearly 154,000 U.S. veterans with COVID-19 infection in the year following the illness’s acute phase, patients had increased risks of an array of cardiovascular problems, including abnormal heart rhythms, heart muscle inflammation, blood clots, strokes, heart attack, and even heart failure. Now we can add arterial damage to the list.

Perissiou acknowledged that while the study was small, it does support the expert prediction among vascular physiologists that there will be an increase in cardiovascular disease in the future because of COVID-19. The study authors recommend further research to strengthen the understanding of causes and contributing factors.

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