COVID-19 and Your Heart: Heartening News

Author: Benedict Ancock, MD, MarinHealth Cardiovascular Medicine | A UCSF Health Clinic
COVID-19 and Your Heart: Heartening News

Rarely do we see the words “COVID-19” and “good news” in the same sentence. But when it comes to the risk of heart damage as a consequence of the coronavirus, the news is surprisingly positive. The facts show that the risk of heart complications in a healthy person with no risk factors and a mild case of COVID-19 is very low.

The two heart-related complications we have seen in people with COVID-19 are pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardium, the sac-like structure that surrounds the heart), and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle itself). Because COVID-19 is a new disease, scientists are constantly learning more about it. Initial concern over heart complications seems to have been overblown because heart complications were seen in those who had severe COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. These observations did not take into statistical account the many COVID-19-positive patients with few or no symptoms.

As more studies were conducted using control groups, it became apparent that cardiac involvement was relatively low. The biggest risk factors for a poor outcome with COVID-19 were older age, obesity, chronic lung disease, type 2 diabetes, a compromised immune system, and preexisting heart conditions.

Pericarditis and Myocarditis

Despite initial concerns, pericarditis and myocarditis do not appear to be any more common in COVID-19 than with some other viruses. Mild cases are treatable or disappear on their own. Under a doctor’s care, pericarditis pain can be controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, prescription-strength pain relievers, or an inflammation-reducing drug called Colchicine.

Severe cases of myocarditis can lead to hospitalization and can result in heart failure or arrhythmias. These outcomes again appear to be very rare in COVID-19 infections.

Staying Safe

The most important thing you can do if you are concerned about your heart health and the risk of contracting COVID-19 is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The vaccine is safe and effective. If you have a chronic heart condition, diabetes, or other medical issues that put you at risk for severe COVID-19, keep seeing your doctor!

If you have put off regular visits for cardiovascular care, please schedule a visit now, as it is important to stay on top of your general health and chronic cardiac conditions. MarinHealth® clinics are following stringent infection-control protocols, so in-person visits are safe. We also offer video visits, when appropriate.

Whether you test positive for COVID-19 or not, never, ever ignore symptoms like these: increasing or extreme shortness of breath with exertion, chest pain, swelling of the ankles, heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat, not being able to lie flat without shortness of breath, waking up at night short of breath, and dizziness.

Find out your risk for heart disease with our quick quiz at