GMB: Dr Amir Khan discusses blood clot symptoms
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Health experts online are warning about the link between “cardiovascular events” and Covid after author Julie Powell, 49, died due to cardiac arrest following a Covid infection. One doctor tweeted: “We have a pandemic of vascular inflammation and abnormal clotting”. The warnings come as new research confirms that people with Covid are at higher risk of health problems after infection.
A study published in the BMJ’s journal Heart found that the risk of “most” cardiovascular events is “highest in the early post-infection period”.
The authors of the study looked at thousands of health records from March 2020 to March 2021 to spot the association.
Cardiovascular events refer to the onset of severe health problems that are connected to damage to your heart and blood vessels.
The study didn’t attempt to explain why cardiovascular events were more common for Covid sufferers.
But medical professionals have found that the virus can reduce the amount of oxygen that gets into your blood.
John Hopkins Medicine explains: “As the virus causes inflammation and fluid to fill up the air sacs in the lungs, less oxygen can reach the bloodstream.
“The heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body, which can be dangerous in people with preexisting heart disease.”
As the doctor on Twitter suggested, there are also studies showing that COVID-19 can directly cause severe inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) and blood vessels (vasculitis).
The study, which looked at 17,871 participants in the UK Biobank database, found that “non-hospitalised” cases of Covid were over 2 times more likely to have venous thromboembolism, and over 10 times more likely to die.
A venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a blood clot that starts in the veins.
Although VTE is treatable, left undiagnosed can cause disability and death.
According to the American Heart Association, VTE may cause the following symptoms:
- Pain in leg or a tender calf
- Swelling in either or both legs
- Warm skin when you touch it
- Red discolouration on your body or red streaks
The study also found that people who were hospitalised with Covid as their “primary” problem were at a higher risk of “all outcomes”, including stroke, heart attack, and atrial fibrillation.
These people were 27.6 times more likely to have VTE, 21 times more likely to have heart failure and 17.5 times more likely to have a stroke.
However, if you show worrying symptoms such as chest pain – a common sign of a heart attack – that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a “cardiovascular event”.
The authors concluded at the end of their study that “such risks are almost entirely confined to those with disease requiring hospitalisation and highest in the early (first 30 days) post infection period.”
According to health experts, Covid can also mimic the symptoms of a heart attack without posing any major problems.
John Hopkins Medicine explained: “People with COVID-19 can have symptoms similar to those of a heart attack, including chest pain, shortness of breath and changes on their echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) or EKG.
“But often when these patients are given an angiogram, there is no evidence of a major blockage in the heart’s blood vessels, which would indicate a heart attack in progress.”
People with long Covid may experience heart palpitations or changes to their heart rate.
The British Heart Foundation says: “This can feel like your heart is racing, pounding or fluttering, and you may feel this in your chest, neck or throat.
“While this can feel worrying, it helps to know that heart palpitations are very common (even in people who aren’t recovering from Covid) and are usually harmless.”
If you are worried about heart palpitations or chest pain, you should seek medical attention or if they last for a long time.
The Charity instructs you to call 999 if you are having palpitations, or your heart rate is increasing and have angina (chest pain), or dizziness.
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