Warning over heart attack risk that increases 63% months after getting Covid

Experts have warned that the governments around the world should prepare for a surge in cardiovascular disease

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People who have survived Covid-19 are more likely to develop potentially fatal heart conditions, experts have warned.

New research has found that coronavirus survivors are 63% more likely to suffer a heart attack, regardless of any pre-existing health conditions or their age, within a year of recovering from the virus.

Coronavirus survivors are 63% more likely to suffer a heart attack, researchers warn (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)Coronavirus survivors are 63% more likely to suffer a heart attack, researchers warn (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)
Coronavirus survivors are 63% more likely to suffer a heart attack, researchers warn (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)

What did researchers find?

A new study, published in Nature Medicines, found there was a “noticeably higher” risk of heart failure, coronary disease and heart failure among people who have previously tested positive for Covid-19 and recovered, compared to those who had not.

Researchers from Washington University in St Louis analysed the records of more than 150,000 Covid-positive people in the US, and compared the results against 11 million people who had never contracted the virus.

The risk of suffering a heart attack was found to increase by 63% post-Covid, while the chances of coronary artery disease or a stroke were 72% and 52% higher respectively.

This was apparent regardless of age, race, sex, or pre-existing conditions, and emerged even in among healthy people with no history of cardiovascular disease.

Findings showed the risk of illness rose most significantly among survivors who were hospitalised with Covid-19, but there was still a “substantial” increase among those who only had a mild infection.

The experts warned that the world should be prepared to deal with a “rise in the burden of cardiovascular diseases”.

They said: “Governments and health systems around the world should be prepared to deal with the likely significant contribution of the Covid-19 pandemic to a rise in the burden of cardiovascular diseases.

“Because of the chronic nature of these conditions, they will likely have long-lasting consequences for patients and health systems and also have broad implications on economic productivity and life expectancy.”

However, Professor Paul Hunt, from the University of East Anglia, believes the risk of cardiovascular issues will fall over time and said vaccines could reduce the risk.

Prof Hunt told The Telegraph: “It’s a bit like smoking. When you’re smoking you have a certain increased risk, but it falls the year after you stop - and if you survive the year you have even less risk… we don’t know from this study how long the increased risk of heart disease lasts.

“It’s plausible that people who’ve had infections after a vaccine would not have such a greater risk afterwards. But we can’t yet say for certain.”

Covid restrictions ending in England

The study comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his intention to remove all remaining coronavirus restrictions in England a month earlier.

Current rules were due to end on 24 March, but Mr Johnson said these could be lifted within weeks providing “encouraging trends in the data continue”.

The lifting of restrictions will mean people will no longer be required to self-isolate even if they test positive for Covid-19.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said: “It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid.

"Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions - including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive, a full month early."

The PM’s spokesman said the ending of legal restrictions in England would be an “important step for this country”, and it “shows that the hard work of the British people is paying off”.

He said: “It is a boon both for the public – we are able to restore freedoms – but also to our hard-hit businesses, particularly hospitality, enabling our economy to grow further.”

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