Even after recovering from Covid, the virus' brutal side effects could linger on, and even develop up to a year after first falling ill, new research suggests.
The findings from Johns Hopkins University in the US revealed that anyone who's had the virus – however mild, and even those who were asymptomatic – is at higher risk for heart issues in the future. And it seems no one is immune.
Epidemiologist and health economist Eric Feigl-Ding shared the findings on Twitter on Monday, although the research was published last month.
The study found that heart issues, including clots, inflammation, and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), could develop a year after recovering from Covid—a risk that persists even in relatively healthy people.
Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center, who conducted the research, said he was surprised to learn that even people who had mild Covid symptoms and didn't require hospital care "still developed an increased risk of heart problems a year out."
"I went into it thinking that [the risk] was going to be most pronounced and evident in people who smoked a lot or had diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or some [other] risk factors," he said.
"What we found is that even in people who did not have any heart problems to start with, were athletic, did not have a high BMI, were not obese, did not smoke, did not have kidney disease or diabetes—even in people who were previously healthy and had no risk factors or problems with the heart—Covid-19 affected them in such a way that manifested the higher risk of heart problems than people who did not get Covid-19."
Dr Al-Aly, who is also chief of Research and Education Service at Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System, said "the increased risk of a broad spectrum of heart problems was evident".
"We found evidence of an increased risk of stroke, of blood clots in the legs and the lungs, and of heart failure and heart attacks," he said.
'Risks are across the board'
The study reportedly involved nearly 11 million people, and while most were white males, 10 per cent of the participants were female and 20 per cent were black, Dr Al-Aly confirmed.
But "the risk was across the board," Dr Al-Aly said. "It really spared no one."
Dr Al-Aly said the findings could be categorised as long Covid, which describes all the post-acute manifestations that happen as a result of the illness.
Long Covid can cause fatigue, brain fog and result in new-onset diabetes, kidney problems, and heart problems – all of which could develop months after recovering from Covid.
Dr Al-Aly warned health systems "need to start preparing for the tide of patients that are going to hit our doors with heart problems and other long Covid problems".
"We're no longer talking about things that might improve tomorrow—we're seeing chronic conditions that will require care for a long time," he said.
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