Studies have shown that a significant proportion of COVID-19 patients experience cardiac involvement, which can manifest as palpitations, arrhythmias, or changes in heart rate. This is believed to be due to inflammation caused by the virus and the body’s immune response to it.
COVID-19 has many adverse effects on the heart like increased heart rate and heart palpitations, blood clots, damage to the heart from a lack of oxygen and nutrients, inflammation of the heart muscle called broken heart syndrome. People with existing heart and circulatory conditions are at a greater risk for heart complications from Covid-19, although these complications are also observed in those without pre-existing heart disease. This is because the virus is thought to damage the endothelial lining (inner lining) of blood vessels. This can lead to blood clotting, leaky blood vessels, reduced blood supply to other parts of the body.
Many people who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection may continue to experience side effects for months, and in some cases, these symptoms can persist for up to six months or longer post-infection. Heart palpitations refer to sensations of a fast or irregular heartbeat, including pounding, fluttering, or skipping beats. While usually not harmful, it is important to seek medical advice if palpitations persist or worsen, or if you have pre-existing heart disease. Medical attention may be required in certain situations such as chest pain, dizziness, prolonged or intense palpitations, or other heart complications.
Long COVID is believed to cause heart palpitations due to inflammation caused by the virus and the body’s immune response to it. The virus can cause inflammation in the heart muscle (myocarditis) and blood vessels (vasculitis), which can lead to changes in heart rate and rhythm. Additionally, Long COVID patients have been reported to have high levels of cytokines, which are inflammatory molecules that can affect the heart and cause palpitations. The exact mechanisms by which the virus causes these changes are still being studied, but it is known that the virus can directly infect the heart and cause myocarditis, which can be responsible for heart palpitations.
The symptoms of palpitations associated with Long COVID include:
It’s important to note that these symptoms can be caused by other conditions as well, so it’s important to consult with your cardiologist if you experience any of these symptoms. They will be able to diagnose the cause of your heart palpitations and recommend appropriate treatment options after the necessary tests.
Many people have noticed an increase in heart rate after recovering from COVID. Normal heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute; an increase in this rate, resulting in tachycardia, is of concern in “long haulers”. Majority of long haulers experience a rapid heart rate (Ref. Link) due to prolonged illness or inactivity. Some may experience an increase in the heart rate while standing which is called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). This is caused by the abnormality in the Autonomic nervous system (ANS) which controls the blood flow back to the heart. Researchers attribute the increase in heart rate following infection with Covid to the virus and immune response affecting the autonomic nervous system (rather than heart itself) and lack of physical activity. The majority of these patients’ cardiac test results are normal. Other common causes of an elevated heart rate include dehydration, stress or anxiety, exercise, caffeine, or the introduction of a new medication. Temporary variations in heart rate are typically not a cause for alarm. Studies have shown that up to one-third of survivors of non-severe COVID-19 experience new electrocardiographic changes and arrhythmias. Although an irregular heartbeat can be caused by other factors such as dehydration, it’s important to consult your doctor to rule out more serious Long COVID complications such as myocarditis, blood clots, and heart dysfunction.
Some of the common symptoms of long COVID are fatigue and prolonged exhaustion, shortness of breath, cognitive difficulties such as brain fog, memory loss, and difficulty concentrating, loss of taste or smell, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and chest pain or palpitations.
You can experience palpitations along with other persistent symptoms such as fatigue and dizziness. In most cases, they are not indicative of a serious problem.
Palpitations are usually harmless and do not require any treatment. You should see a doctor if they occur too often, last too long, or worsen over time. If palpitations are due to a heart problem like cardiac arrhythmias, your doctor may prescribe beta blockers to regulate your heart rhythm.
Heart palpitations may last for seconds, minutes, or even longer. You can feel the heart pounding or fluttering in your chest. They can occur anytime, even during rest or routine activities.
Yes. Although long COVID primarily affects the respiratory system, it can damage the heart. Temporary or permanent heart damage can result from:
Stress cardiomyopathy, which is caused by viral infections, damages the heart.
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