Higher risk of heart trouble means more trouble post-pandemic

It became clear within the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic that people with certain conditions were at higher risk of developing the most severe cases of COVID-19 — and experiencing the worst outcomes.

People with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and kidney disease were warned that these conditions could leave them more vulnerable to severe infection and damage from the SARS-CoV-2 virus — and to take extra precautions to stay safe.

Now that we’ve come out on the other side, researchers have begun to look back on mountains of data collected to learn more. And what they found should be taken as a warning…

If you have a family history of heart disease, or your doctor has warned you’re at higher risk of developing it, listen up: A future that includes COVID-19 can make your future heart health even riskier…

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How future risk for cardio disease affects your COVID-19 risks

People with cardiovascular disease (CVD) have been associated with the most severe outcomes from COVID-19, including the most hospitalizations and death.

But in findings presented at the 2022 European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), researchers believe that people who are at higher risk of developing CVD need to be cautious about the virus as well.

That’s because their data shows that those with an elevated risk of developing a stroke or heart attack over the next 10 years — but without existing CVD — who contract COVID-19, appear to be nearly three times as likely to be hospitalized and require treatment in intensive care, compared to those at low cardiovascular risk. They also appear to be six times as likely to die from COVID-19.

“Our study is one of the largest population-based studies with a comprehensive measure of cardiovascular risk,” says study author Jennifer Davidson from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). “Although the risk of contracting COVID-19 infection appears similar among individuals with raised and low cardiovascular risk, the occurrence of severe outcomes is far higher in those at elevated risk.”

The researchers examined data from almost one million adults aged 40 to 84 who were registered at general practitioners across England during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020.

Each person’s risk of future CVD was estimated using factors like body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, history of smoking, age and ethnicity. Those who had an estimated 10 percent or higher chance of a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years went into the “raised risk” group, while those with a less than 10 percent chance were classified as “low risk.”

Of the study participants, 12 percent had existing CVD. Another 32 percent were identified as being at raised risk of developing CVD and 56 percent at low risk.

Between March and September 2020, a total of 4,017 study participants were diagnosed with COVID-19. Out of those, 576 died, 159 were admitted to the ICU and 1,091 were hospitalized.

The researchers found the chances of getting COVID-19 were similar among both the raised and low cardiovascular risk groups. However, rates of death, ICU admission and hospitalization were substantially higher in those with high cardiovascular risk.

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The importance of protection

The researchers say their findings emphasize the importance of vaccination — but they also stress that improving cardiovascular health across the population to reduce the severity of COVID-19 should be a priority.

Covid-19 does not have the stranglehold it once did, but most experts agree, it’s here to stay. That means you shouldn’t put off reducing your risk for developing heart disease any longer.

Those modifiable risk factors for heart disease and stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise

Fortunately, diet is a great first step to controlling several of these factors.  Adopt a healthy eating plan like the Mediterranean diet or try the ultimate heart-healthy diet, the Pesco-Mediterranean version.

People who eat fish and no poultry or red meat are 34 percent less likely to die from heart disease. If you don’t feel you can give those up completely, as the Pesco-Mediterranean version suggests, try the standard Mediterranean diet and see if you can slowly eat less and less chicken and meat and more fish.

Another benefit of a diet that includes fatty fish is increasing levels of omega-3s. Not only does the evidence stack up that omega-3s are heart-protective, but higher omega-3 levels were associated with better outcomes for those hospitalized with severe COVID-19 in a pilot study.

A Mediterranean-style diet will get you eating more leafy greens, too. The big benefit there is the nitric oxide they produce which has been found to go after visceral fat and may help reduce risk for blood sugar problems.

And lastly, no heart health plan would be complete with regular exercise. Even a simple daily walk can improve your heart health, especially if you’re walking fast.

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 discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!

Sources:

People at risk of future heart disease and stroke may be at greater risk for severe COVID-19 — London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

The effect of cardiovascular risk on severe COVID-19 outcomes in England during 2020: a cohort study — European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases

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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.