Your heartbeat and COVID: The infection that leads to AFib

COVID-19 cases are on the rise as the temperatures fall, and researchers are working hard to unravel the many mysteries surrounding the illness.

Since COVID-19 has been known to affect heart health, hundreds of studies have been conducted looking into the role heart health plays in the illness.

As cardiologist and EHO contributor Dr. Elizabeth Klodas noted in an earlier issue, patients with coronary heart disease face higher risks when sick with COVID-19. Previous studies have also indicated higher death rates in COVID-19 patients with evidence of heart damage, which can show up as abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter.

Experts recently reviewed data to analyze the prevalence of these conditions in hospitalized COVID-19 patients and presented their findings at an American Heart Association session…

COVID and your heartbeat

Researchers reviewed medical records of 435 adult patients in the Yale Cardiovascular COVID Registry and found that overall, one-fifth of the patients had an episode of atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter during hospitalization. An estimated 7.8 percent were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter for the first time in their lives, and 15.9 percent of patients had an existing history of these types of arrhythmia.

When analyzing the outcomes of the patients with atrial fibrillation/flutter, researchers discovered that the patients with a history of these arrhythmias had a significantly higher risk of death or ICU mortality, independent of other issues related to the heart, kidneys and lungs. Having atrial fibrillation/flutter while in the hospital was significantly connected with an even higher risk of death and ICU mortality, as well as failure of other organs such as the lungs or kidneys.

The mean age of the patients studied was 68.2 years, and more than half of them were male.

“Our study suggests that the combination of COVID-19 and atrial arrhythmias may create a pathologic synergy that markedly increases the risk for major adverse cardiac events and death,” says Dr. Zaniar Ghazizadeh, a lead author of the study and an internal medicine resident at Yale New Haven Hospital/Yale School of Medicine. “Patients and physicians need to monitor for these arrhythmias closely, and treatments needs to be timely.”

Researchers say there needs to be more investigation to understand the mechanisms of heart injury from COVID-19 infection and identify methods to prevent this complication.

Maintaining a healthy rhythm

Problems with heart rhythm occur when the electrical impulses that control your heartbeats go haywire, causing your heart to beat too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. Some arrhythmias can feel like a fluttering or racing heart and may be harmless, while others can cause life-threatening symptoms.

Atrial fibrillation is caused by uncoordinated electrical impulses in the atria, which result in rapid, irregular and weak contractions of that part of the heart. Atrial flutter is a similar condition, but with more organized and rhythmic electrical impulses and heartbeats. Both can lead to serious complications such as stroke.

Treatments such as medications, surgery or implantable devices can control or eliminate arrhythmia. Since a weak, damaged heart can cause irregular heartbeat, another way to reduce or prevent arrhythmia is to keep your heart healthy through good diet and exercise.

There are other, natural ways to address arrhythmia, although you should check with your doctor before trying them. One is to get plenty of magnesium. A low level of magnesium in the body can cause irregular heartbeat, so taking magnesium can help control heart rhythm. The recommended dose is 350 to 400 milligrams of magnesium daily for fewer arrhythmic episodes. Make sure you’re taking magnesium citrate, which is a readily absorbed form of the mineral.

Potassium is another mineral essential to good heart health. A shortage of potassium can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, which can contribute to irregular heartbeat. Take about 1,000 milligrams a day of this essential mineral to help with arrhythmia.

Make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to a healthy heart and the prevention of arrhythmias. The American Heart Association recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel or herring every week. You can also get omega-3s by taking supplements; 2.4 grams is the recommended daily dose to reduce the frequency of irregular heartbeats.

Research has shown vitamin C can help reduce the occurrence of atrial fibrillation. In one study of patients who underwent cardioversion for atrial fibrillation, the condition recurred in only 4.5 percent of the patients taking vitamin C, compared with 36.3 percent in the control group.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant naturally produced in the body, but as we age, we produce less of it. It’s also been found to be lower in people with heart problems. In one Chinese study, people with heart failure taking CoQ10 supplements along with their regular meds had fewer AFib episodes and felt better. If you’re on blood thinner, talk to your doctor about this supplement. CoQ10 is fat-soluble, so taking it as a soft liquid gel, rather than a dry tablet or capsule, may improve absorption.

A review of eight studies found acupuncture to be particularly effective at controlling arrhythmia, with 87 percent to 100 percent of participants converting to normal sinus rhythm after acupuncture. If you suffer from arrhythmia and want to try acupuncture to treat it, make sure you talk to your doctor first.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To find out about these and more, click here to read our free report!

Sources:

COVID-19 risks: Irregular heartbeat may increase risk, blood pressure medicines do not — American Heart Association

Heart arrhythmia — Mayo Clinic

Cardiac Arrhythmia (Holistic) — PeaceHealth

Magnesium and Your Heart…And More — Easy Health Options

Alternative Treatments for Arrhythmia — Healthline

Oral vitamin C administration reduces early recurrence rates after electrical cardioversion of persistent atrial fibrillation and attenuates associated inflammation — International Journal of Cardiology

The effects of acupuncture on cardiac arrhythmias: a literature review — Heart & Lung

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Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.