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Heart damage caused by COVID-19 could be permanent

A&M cardiovascular expert: It’s “hard to say,” if damage caused by COVID-19 can be reversed
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:34 PM CST
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - “COVID-19 can directly damage your heart,” according to Texas A&M cardiovascular expert Dr. Carl Tong.

He joined First News at Four to talk about why heart health is especially important in the midst of a pandemic.

He says there have been multiple studies that suggest COVID-19 can seriously affect your heart. Dr. Tong says a German study that found 78% of those involved in the study had changes in their heart after contracting COVID-19. That same study found that 60% of those observed had ongoing inflammation of the heart even after recovery.

“That’s a lot,” Dr. Tong said.

He says autopsies of those who have died due to COVID-19 reveal the right ventricle, which is responsible for pumping blood to the lungs, is wider or larger than normal. Dr. Tong says he’s personally seen patients go into rapid heart failure due or have right heart failure after having COVID-19.

He says it’s hard to say if damage caused by COVID-19 can be healed.

“I hope so,” Dr. Tong explained, “but it’s kinda early on.”

He says it’s really too early to know the extent of what damage COVID-19 can do and what, if anything, can be done to reverse it. Dr. Tong explains that the current treatment for heart damage caused by COVID-19 would be the same as the treatment for heart failure.

“I believe most [hearts] will [recover from damage caused by COVID-19]” Dr. Tong said, “but I also think that some will not.”

Dr. Tong urges everyone to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days per week. He says that’s the best thing you can do for your heart. Dr. Tong says never start smoking and if you do, you need to stop as soon as possible. But he says one of the most important things to do to prevent serious heart problems is getting control of your blood pressure.

“For every 10 point decrease in [blood pressure]” Dr. Tong explained, “you actually decrease chances of having a heart attack by 50%. You also decrease your chances of having a stroke by 50%. That’s true for all age groups.”

He says the number of Americans dying due to heart-related issues has been increasing since 2010.

“Last year there were about 600,000 deaths due to heart disease,” Dr. Tong said.

But in the midst of a pandemic, heart health is more important than ever.

“If you have heart disease, you will increase your chance of dying by COVID-19 significantly,” Dr. Tong said, “that’s one of the reasons why people with high risk of [heart disease] should be getting the vaccine earlier than everybody else.”

Watch the full interview in the player above.

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