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How does COVID-19 affect the heart?
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.
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What health conditions may affect how COVID-19 affects the heart?
Some chronic health conditions may affect how COVID-19 affects your heart. These include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
Visit CDC’s page on higher risk groups for more information on existing medical conditions and COVID-19.
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What is the NHLBI doing to support research on how COVID-19 affects the heart?
NHLBI-funded research has helped us understand how inflammation and infection are affecting the heart.
- NIH-funded study shows blood pressure levels rose during pandemic
- Q&A with NHLBI’s Jerome Fleg, M.D.: COVID-19, Vaccines, and Myocarditis
- COVID-19 found to raise blood pressure among Americans
- NHLBI’s Strong Heart Study and American Indian communities team up to fight COVID-19
- COVID-19 and the heart: A bounty of questions
- Virus that causes COVID-19 might directly infect heart cells
- Arterial wall cells offer insight into coronavirus’ rampage from head to toe
- Potential cause behind blood clotting in COVID-19 patients uncovered
The NHLBI also supports new research, including clinical trials that are focused on identifying those at highest risk and developing treatments for people infected with SARS-CoV-2.
- Study: COVID-19 pandemic increased health inequities among people with high blood pressure
- Study identifies indicators for COVID-19 complications among adults with congenital heart disease
- Study reveals high fatality rate among COVID-infected heart transplant recipients
- Special test detects who’s at risk for life-threatening blood clots from COVID-19
- NIH ACTIV initiative launches adaptive clinical trials of blood clotting treatments for COVID-19
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What can I do to keep myself and others safe?
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from COVID-19. Wearing a mask indoors, washing your hands often, and staying at least 6 feet from other people can also help protect you and prevent possibly spreading the virus to others. The CDC provides up-to-date information on how to protect yourself and others.
In addition, consider:
Be sure to check these additional COVID-19 information sources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: