As scientists learn more about COVID-19, the facts about the disease become grimmer. The latest scientific data suggests that infection with SARS-CoV-2 could lead to life-threatening heart issues among patients.

New research found that COVID-19 patients are “55% more likely to suffer a major adverse cardiovascular event,” such as stroke, heart attack and even death than those who did not contract the disease.

Andrew Mark, a cardiologist and biophysics professor at Columbia University, and Steven Reiken, a research scientist in Marks’ lab, conducted the study with their colleagues. They also found that the infection could lead to other heart problems, such as arrhythmias and myocarditis.

They linked all the issues with the changes in the calcium channels caused by COVID-19 infection, saying such changes trigger inflammation and oxidative stress in the heart.

Calcium ions are needed by the heart’s system to coordinate the contractions of the atria and ventricles. Disruption in the proper functioning of calcium channels could lead to arrhythmias or heart failure.

For Marks and his team, it’s important to study the effects of COVID-19 infection on the heart to improve the way the medical community addresses the disease and cares for patients.

“The more awareness you build around particular aspects of a disease, the more likely you are to improve the care of patients. And doctors should be aware of heart changes related to COVID-19 infections and should be looking for them,” Marks said in a Biophysical Society news release.

“[Ultimately], we want to really figure out what's causing the heart disease and how to fix it,” he added.

Reiken will present their study findings at the 67th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting in San Diego, California, on Monday, Feb. 20.

In January, a study published in the journal Nature Cardiovascular Research found that both COVID-19 infection and vaccination increase the chances of a person getting Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or POTS — a debilitating heart condition characterized by abnormal heart rate increase when a person stands.

Despite the findings, the authors insisted that vaccination is “still the best way to reduce [the] risk of developing POTS.”

In the same month, the American Heart Association released a statistical report naming heart disease as the no. 1 killer during the first year of the pandemic and not COVID-19.

Heart Attack
A person experiencing chest pain. Pexels