MILLIONS of Brits have had coronavirus in the last two years with many also experiencing lasting issues.
Long Covid is a term used for those who have continued to suffer after initially contracting the bug.
Those who have it have reported struggling with severe fatigue, muscle aches, shortness of breath and loss of smell – to name a few.
But research has increasingly pointed to dangerous heart conditions.
These, experts say, have occurred even in patients who have suffered mild cases of the virus.
Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, epidemiologist at Washington University, in the US said Covid sufferers had an increased risk of heart issues.
“It is not only surprising but also profoundly consequential that the risk is evident even in those [who had mild infections].
“That’s what makes this likely a serious public health problem,” he told the Daily Mail.
Research published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that deaths due to an irregular heartbeat have helped drive a rise in excess deaths.
The number of deaths registered in England and Wales due to cardiac arrhythmias was well above average for much of the first half of 2022, figures show.
The total number of deaths due to an irregular heartbeat was 37.1 per cent above average in March and 23.1 per cent in April – a sharp jump from 13.7 per cent in January and 9.2 per cent in February.
Sarah Caul, ONS head of mortality analysis, said the figure had been “driven by higher than expected numbers of deaths since March, which could be caused by a combination of factors.
“Across March, April and May we saw increases in deaths due to cardiac arrhythmias, predominantly among those aged 80 and above.
“Further work needs to be done to understand any link between the long-term effects of Covid and increasing cardiac deaths.”
A paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), also revealed in July that patients who contract Covid-19 are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disorders and diabetes in the three months following infection.
Variants of Covid that are currently circulating are milder than those before it.
Millions of Brits have now been jabbed against the illness after a mammoth roll out and many others also have some protection from previous infection.
However experts who looked at medical records for over 428,000 Covid patients found the bug was associated with a six-fold increase in cardiovascular diagnoses overall.
Scientists highlighted that this was mainly down to pulmonary embolisms and irregular heartbeats – also known as arterial fibrillation.
In May, a study penned by experts at the University of Glasgow found a link between the bug and myocarditis.
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and can be caused by an infection, such as Covid.
The results showed that one in eight patients were struck with myocarditis.
The condition may cause chest pain or breathlessness just walking up the stairs, flu-like symptoms such as a high temperature and fatigue, or heart palpitations.
Overall severity of Covid illness appeared to be the main driver of this side effect, said Professor Colin Berry, principle investigator.
He said: “One of the most important findings is that it is the severity of a patient’s Covid-19 infection – not their underlying health conditions – that is most closely correlated with the severity of any ongoing health outcomes post discharge.
“We found that previously healthy patients, without any underlying health conditions, were suffering with severe health outcomes, including myocarditis, post hospitalisation.
“The reasons for this are unclear, but it may be that a healthy person who is hospitalised with Covid-19 is likely to have a worse Covid infection than someone with underlying health conditions who is hospitalised.”
In the US a study of 150,000 people found that heart complications can even occur in those who have recovered from mild infections.
Another paper published by BMJ in March this year also found that those who had been hospitalised by the bug were three times more likely to end up in hospital with major heart issues within eight months of being taken to hospital.
In long term cases myocarditis can affect the heart muscle and tissue, the British Heart Foundation says, which could lead to heart failure or even an organ transplant.
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