American heart health, already a concern, has seen further harm from COVID-19. Read on to learn more about the increase in heart issues since the pandemic.
COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the world’s population, with millions dying from the disease. With society upended for over two years, returning to “normal” is unlikely, even though the pandemic is currently easing. The spread of COVID-19 has left behind many health issues and has specifically harmed American heart health.
These heart issues stem from a complicated combination of physical and mental issues that are difficult to separate. However, the medical community knows that Americans need to be more proactive about overall heart healthcare, and companies like Advanta Health can help.
Heart Health Statistics
Over 77 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and over 900,000 have died from the virus. While many people recover completely, others suffer long-term effects, including heart, brain and lung problems.
People who develop long-term issues are known as COVID long haulers. Experts estimate that up to 25% of COVID-19 survivors become long haulers, whether they had a mild or severe case.
Unfortunately, Americans also neglected their health due to fear of contracting COVID-19 at healthcare facilities. In the first year of the pandemic, only 52% of Americans reached out for medical care for worrying health concerns. This lack of physician visits has seriously affected Americans, especially with their heart health. Routine medical care combined with a wellness program like Advanta Health can go a long way toward maintaining heart health.
COVID-19 Effects on the Heart
Recent research shows that people who get COVID-19 are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular issues in the first month to a year after the infection. These issues may include irregular heart rhythms, heart inflammation, stroke, blood clots, heart attack, heart failure and coronary artery disease.
The COVID-19 virus can cause inflammation in multiple organs. One of the most worrying conditions is myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. Myocarditis causes weak or ineffective heart pumping, leading to irregular and/or rapid heart rhythms.
People who develop myocarditis may die of sudden heart failure. Others will recover from the initial condition but are left with a damaged heart. The heart might also develop significant scar tissue that restricts its ability to properly expand, potentially leading to congestive heart failure or sudden death.
Myocarditis survivors have to be careful not to overexert themselves or put too much pressure on their hearts. For example, athletes who have recovered from COVID-19 need careful monitoring because of this possibility.
These heart issues occur in previously healthy people and those with a history of heart problems and other serious medical issues. During an active case of COVID-19, some patients have reported feeling pressure and/or pain in the chest, a symptom that requires immediate medical attention. These could be signs of heart inflammation and muscle deterioration.
Untended Heart Symptoms
The pandemic had indirect effects on American heart health as well. During the height of COVID-19 waves, public health officials urged Americans to isolate themselves and avoid contact with others outside their immediate family. People with minor medical issues also delayed seeking treatment to avoid highly infectious medical facilities. While some patients embraced telehealth during this period, others simply neglected their health, waiting until the pandemic eased.
Experts believe this health care avoidance led some Americans to ignore serious heart symptoms, such as chest pain and irregular heartbeats, out of fear of contracting COVID-19. As a result, deaths from heart disease skyrocketed during the early months of the pandemic.
In fact, 2020 saw approximately 32,000 more heart disease deaths than were reported in 2019. While some of these deaths were directly attributable to the COVID-19 virus, many resulted from a lack of medical care. For instance, some people with chest pain simply stayed home and hoped it would pass rather than expose themselves to a rich COVID-19 environment like an emergency room.
Mental Health and Heart Health Issues
Medical professionals have long known that a person’s mental health affects their physical health and vice versa. It is no surprise, then, that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased mental health issues, including depression.
The challenges of dealing with COVID-19, such as isolation, social distancing, work-from-home measures and distance learning, combined to affect nearly everyone. Since social interaction is key to maintaining a healthy mental outlook, a lack of socialization can lead to depression, anxiety or other issues.
Research shows that 32.8%of Americans in 2021 experienced heightened levels of depression as compared to 8.5% pre-pandemic. Among a sample of patients who had COVID-19, over 50% reported symptoms of depression weeks and months after recovery. Those with more severe cases of COVID-19 reported more severe depressive symptoms. Research can attribute some of these depression symptoms to isolation and fear, but there is evidence that COVID-19 changes how the brain works, perhaps permanently.
Depression and heart disease have long been linked in a dangerous two-way relationship. Some people who have previously shown no sign of depression become depressed after suffering a heart attack or other heart health issues. Conversely, people who suffer from depression and have no prior heart issues develop heart disease at a greater percentage than the general public.
Experts note that some people with depression are not diagnosed with the condition until they develop heart problems. The direct connection is difficult to prove, but medical professionals agree that depression and heart issues seem to be linked. About one in five people who suffer a heart attack receive a depression diagnosis shortly after the episode.
Since COVID-19 has increased heart issues and depression, Americans’ heart health has taken a serious hit. These factors combine to leave Americans more vulnerable to heart attacks and coronary disease, two issues that were already the leading causes of death in the US before the pandemic. In 2019, over 650,000 Americans died from heart disease. Unfortunately, the medical community is preparing itself for significant increases in that number in the next few years.
Living in the United States has long meant dealing with a high rate of heart disease. It is the number one cause of death in the country, but some segments of the population too often ignore it. For instance, about 1 in 5 women die from heart disease, yet they are consistently under-diagnosed. COVID-19 has also increased the heart disease risk of the entire American population, already at a higher risk of developing heart issues.
You can protect your heart health during this difficult period by taking action while staying safe from COVID-19. First, you need to seek treatment if you notice any possible heart symptoms, including chest, back, arm and jaw pain. Remember, the risk of dying from a heart attack is higher than the risk of dying from COVID-19. And if you feel anxious about seeking treatment, reassure yourself that medical facilities have improved safety measures throughout the pandemic.
Keep your medical appointments, including yearly checkups. Scheduling telehealth visits can cut down on the level of your COVID-19 exposure. As well, do not neglect your mental health. Stress and depression are linked with heart disease, and both of these mental health issues shot up during the pandemic.
The extent of COVID-19’s effect on American heart health will not be known for some time, but it has exacerbated an already deadly problem.