Respiratory viral infections, including COVID-19 and influenza, have been spreading rapidly throughout the United States, and experts are now warning about the potential rise in cardiovascular complications that could accompany these illnesses. While many people associate respiratory illnesses with sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia, there are additional risks that can impact the heart.
Dr. Deepak Bhatt, director of Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital, explains that there are two main ways in which these infections can contribute to heart problems. The first pathway is through severe illness and hospitalization due to complications from the viral infection. High fever and dehydration associated with these illnesses can raise a patient’s heart rate, which can be particularly dangerous for individuals with pre-existing heart disease or risk factors. Moreover, respiratory infections can cause inflammation that leads to the formation of plaques in the blood vessels, potentially triggering heart attacks.
The second pathway is rarer but more direct, involving inflammation of the heart muscle known as myocarditis. This condition can result in abnormal or rapid heartbeats, weaken the heart muscle, and even lead to heart failure or cardiogenic shock. While these complications are more common in older adults and those with known heart disease, there may be individuals who are unaware that they are at risk.
To mitigate these risks, Dr. Bhatt urges individuals to get vaccinated against COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), especially for older adults. Vaccine uptake, however, has been lagging, with only a fraction of adults having received the necessary vaccinations.
It is important for individuals to be aware of warning signs such as chest pain or worsening shortness of breath, even if they do not have a diagnosed heart condition or risk factors. If experiencing significant discomfort or rapidly worsening symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately by calling 911.
As respiratory viral infections continue to spread, prioritizing vaccination and recognizing the potential impact on cardiovascular health can help mitigate the risks associated with these illnesses.
Q: What are the potential cardiovascular complications associated with respiratory viral infections?
A: Respiratory viral infections, including COVID-19 and influenza, can contribute to heart problems in two main ways. The first is through severe illness and hospitalization, which can raise heart rate and lead to the formation of plaques in blood vessels. The second is through inflammation of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis, which can result in abnormal heartbeats, weakened heart muscle, and heart failure.
Q: Who is at a higher risk for these complications?
A: Older adults and individuals with pre-existing heart disease or risk factors are at a higher risk for cardiovascular complications from respiratory viral infections. However, there may be individuals who are unaware that they are at risk.
Q: How can these risks be mitigated?
A: Getting vaccinated against COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is crucial, especially for older adults. It is also important to be aware of warning signs such as chest pain or worsening shortness of breath, even if one does not have a diagnosed heart condition or risk factors. Seeking medical attention immediately through calling 911 is crucial if experiencing significant discomfort or rapidly worsening symptoms.
– Respiratory viral infections: Infections caused by viruses that primarily affect the respiratory system, such as COVID-19 and influenza.
– Cardiovascular complications: Health issues related to the heart and blood vessels that may arise as a result of respiratory viral infections.
– Myocarditis: Inflammation of the heart muscle, which can lead to abnormal heartbeats, weakened heart muscle, and heart failure.
– Plaques: Deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin that accumulate on the inner walls of arteries and can potentially block blood flow.
– Vaccination: The administration of a vaccine to stimulate the immune system’s response and provide immunity against specific diseases.
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