SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, most commonly affects the lungs but It can also lead to serious heart problems.
Lung damage caused by the virus prevents oxygen from reaching the heart muscle, which in turn damages the heart tissue and prevents it from getting oxygen to other tissues.
In addition, the body responds to the virus by creating inflammation, which is usually a appropriate reaction when it is fighting a virus. In some people with COVID-19, however, the inflammation seems to go into overdrive. Too much inflammation may further damage the heart or disrupt the electrical signals that help it to beat properly, which can reduce its pumping ability or lead to abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmia, or make an existing arrhythmia worse.
In children and teens, a high level of inflammation is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), and it can particularly affect the heart.
The virus may also affect heart cells. Researchers are working to understand if and how much this contributes to the heart damage seen in people with COVID-19. Some people who are seriously ill with COVID-19 form many small blood clots throughout the body including in the heart, which can also cause damage. Researchers think that too much inflammation may be causing the clots to form.
Some chronic health conditions may affect how COVID-19 affects your heart. These include:
Check CDC’s page on higher risk groups for more information on existing medical conditions and COVID-19.
NHLBI-funded research has helped us understand how inflammation and infection are affecting the heart.
The NHLBI is also supporting new studies, including clinical trials that are focused on developing treatments for people infected with SARS-CoV-2.
We should all take steps to protect ourselves and others from infection by getting a COVID-19 vaccine, washing hands often, avoiding crowded places, wearing a mask, and staying at least 6 feet from other people. In addition, consider:
In addition, be sure to check these additional COVID-19 information sources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: