Link Between Post Covid Syndrome and Abnormal Heart Rate Problems

Some Persons Who Have Suffered from Mild COVID-19 Report Continuous Abnormal Heart Rate Problems

A man who says he had a “mild case” of COVID-19 many months ago just disclosed that he is still having abnormal heart rate problems following his recovery from the virus. Anthony Smith, vice-president of the digital media firm NationSwell, shared his story in a Twitter feed that has now gone viral.

I simply wanted to join the group of people sharing that my resting heart rate averaged in the low 80s pre-COVID and currently it somewhat hovers at just higher than 100 beats per minute, Smith wrote. Sometimes I will wake up in the middle of the night with 110 or 120.

Mr. Smith described the experience as “alarming and anxiety-provoking,” but “not life-altering,” adding that he is “lucky in that regard.”

Apparently, he is not alone in this. “This is precisely what my 19-year-old daughter is going through. Her heart rate ran around 73 resting, even in the pangs of the virus. Now, with the simplest movement, her heart rate will shoot to 127 - 146. Will also shoot up while seated for still no reason. It is CRAZY!!” one person reacted. I was asymptomatic, discovered that I only had it when a co-worker got sick and we all had to take a test. I will be sitting at my desk in my air-conditioned office and my watch will alert me of a high heart rate. No breathing issues. No fever. But my heart is F’d,” another said.

Other people provided hope that it would get better. “I have had this too. Had COVID in February and gone through irregular heart rhythms for three months. I went to a cardiologist twice. I had a cardiogram, which came back normal, but the strange rhythms continued. Only now has it collapsed. It will come to a halt over time,” said someone.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but it has been linked to weird symptoms like a skin rash and problems like blood clots. So, are heart rate problems something you should be worried about if you contract the disease? That will come to an end over time,” somebody wrote.

How does COVID-19 impact the heart?

It is crucial to note that COVID-19 is an infection caused by a newly discovered coronavirus and, with that, there are a lot of researchers who are still learning about it. Still, there is some early evidence that the virus could cause heart problems for people.

One study of 187 patients with COVID-19 which was published in JAMA Cardiology found that nearly 28% of them had a cardiac problem which led to heart dysfunction and arrhythmias, for example, irregular heartbeats.

Another review of research published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine examined 45 articles about COVID-19 and heart problems, and concluded that physicians should be conscious that the virus could cause “cardiovascular problems,” including swelling of the heart muscle, myocarditis, heart failure, heart attack, abnormal heart beats, and blood clots.

Matthew Tomey, M.D., a cardiologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City says he has seen several people come into his office with heart rate problems after contracting COVID-19. It is usually the fit people who are surprised by how fast their heart rate gets, either when they are resting or when they strain themselves with normal activities, Dr. Tomey says. It is a very foreign feeling for people who have felt fit.

Some people could experience an abnormal heartbeat and not notice it, he explains, but others might have symptoms like a fast or slow heartbeat, skipping beats, light-headedness, and even chest pain.

For what it is worth, this is not really a common thing with diseases as a whole. I have never seen this after other diseases, so I suspect it is another newly-recognized condition related with COVID-19, says Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease doctor and lecturer in internal medicine, Northeast Ohio Medical University.

Why is there a link between COVID-19 and an abnormal heart rate?

That is not exactly clear, but there are theories. We know that SARS-CoV-2 the virus which causes COVID-19 could cause swelling of the heart muscle, and which could lead to decreased cardiac function, explains infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior researcher, Johns Hopkins Health Security Center. It simply does not happen to everybody.

Dr. Tomey has got a couple of theories as well. Definitely the elephant in the room is whether this is an effect or after-effect of the COVID-19 infection itself, he says. It is a possibility which we have not proven yet.

It is also possible that people might have been more sedentary than they realize leading up to and after having COVID-19, and that could throw their heart rate out of whack when they do things they did not have trouble with in the past. We underestimate the amount of aerobic activity we get in our everyday lives when we do things such as running to the bus and walking to work, Dr. Tomey says. That decrease in daily step count and daily exercise may have an impact on heart rate.

How long will these potential cardiac issues last after COVID-19?

It is not quite clear at this point. An abnormal heart rate, particularly, is a symptom, so you have to seek the underlying cause, Dr. Adalja says. It could be due to something as simple as dehydration or anemia, or it could be a sign that the heart is not pumping as well as it should, he says.

Dr. Amesh A. Adalja says he thinks this will go away for previous COVID-19 patients with time, but he stresses, we do not even have a good idea of what the underlying cause is.

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