An Enduring Link: COVID-19 and Cardiometabolic Health

Twon TreeMore experience with COVID-19 tells us that the relationship between COVID-19 and cardiometabolic health is more than a passing thing. It starts with the risk that obesity confers for worse outcomes with COVID-19. That was the first clue. But that’s not the end of it. Because people are learning that the effects of COVID-19 can be lasting.

For example, researchers are seeing evidence of heart damage in competitive athletes recovering from COVID-19 infection.

A Small Case Series

Saurabh Rajpal and colleagues performed cardiac imaging studies on 26 athletes at Ohio State who had tested positive for COVID-19. None of them were particularly sick with this virus. They weren’t hospitalized or given antiviral therapy. In fact only 12 of them reported mild symptoms. The rest had no symptoms at all. These athletes came from diverse sports – football, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and track. A few more were males (15) than females (11).

Among these 26 athletes, four had evidence of myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle. Eight more had some evidence of injury to their heart muscle.

Of course, this is only a small case series that provides an indication to look more closely and do more research. But it does line up with other research that found cardiac involvement in 78 of 100 patients recovering from COVID-19 in Germany. Among those patients, 60 of them had ongoing myocarditis. Those symptoms were independent of preexisting conditions and severity of the acute illness.

The Need for Better Information

These new findings underscore the need for better information about COVID-19. Typically, many people rely upon the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for such information. But reports that politicians instead of scientists are writing some of the information coming from CDC give us pause.

Politicians are telling us not to worry about COVID-19. “It just attacks old people, especially old people with bad heart, diabetes, or some kind of a physical problem.” Young, healthy college athletes are “not going to have a problem.” Or so they say.

Notwithstanding the swirl of politics, this pesky virus persists and resists the desired script. Indeed, it does inflict the greatest harm on older people right away. They have more cardiometabolic risk factors. But people living with obesity at any age can have cardiometabolic health issues that put them at risk if they’re exposed to the virus.

On top of all that, the virus may create cardiometabolic health problems after the fact. Heart damage is one of them. The possibility of diabetes resulting from COVID-19 is another. The list may well grow longer.

In any event, it is now clear that the relationship between COVID-19 and cardiometabolic health is quite involved and may be long-lasting. We have much to learn.

Click here for the study of heart damage in college athletes from COVID-19 and here for further reporting. For a collection of articles on cardiometabolic health and COVID-19, click here.

Twon Tree, art by M.C. Escher / WikiArt

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September 18, 2020

One Response to “An Enduring Link: COVID-19 and Cardiometabolic Health”

  1. September 18, 2020 at 2:04 pm, Cathy A Arsenault said:

    Thank you Ted. NC Heart Hospital (the new hospital next to UNC REX Hospital) just had a Heart Specialist on TV that shared the exact same stories. This is very concerning and it needs to be heard so people understand they need to be checked. Excellent article.