A large-scale study found that people who battled COVID-19 are still at a higher risk of dying around 18 months after their initial infection.

Researchers looked into the cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death risks among COVID-19 patients in a new study published Wednesday in the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) journal Cardiovascular Research.

The team evaluated the short- and long-term associations between COVID-19 and the development of CVD and mortality in the general population using data from nearly 160,000 participants.

The participants were identified from the U.K. Biobank, and they battled the coronavirus disease between March 2020 and November 2020. They were tracked for up to 18 months to see the short-term and long-term implications of the viral infection.

Each participant was randomly matched up with up to 10 people without COVID-19 from two cohort studies. The scientists particularly looked into the COVID-19-positive participants’ CVD and mortality risks within three weeks of diagnosis (acute phase) and after this period (post-acute phase).

After analyzing the data, the scientists found that the likelihood of COVID-19 patients dying was about 81 times higher than uninfected individuals within the first 21 days of infection. The probability remained five times higher for as long as 18 months after infection.

"COVID-19 patients were more likely to develop numerous cardiovascular conditions compared to uninfected participants, which may have contributed to their higher risks of death," study author Professor Ian C.K. Wong of the University of Hong Kong, China, said, as quoted by Medical Xpress.

Wong and his colleagues found in the course of their study that COVID-19 patients were four times more likely to develop major cardiovascular disease than uninfected individuals in the acute phase and 40% more likely in the post-acute phase

"The findings indicate that patients with COVID-19 should be monitored for at least a year after recovering from the acute illness to diagnose cardiovascular complications of the infection, which form part of long COVID,” Wong added.

Meanwhile, a different study published in the journal Nature last month found that SARS-CoV-2 could stay in the brain for up to 8 months after initial infection. The discovery could help the ongoing efforts of the medical community to better understand long COVID and its various manifestations affecting multiple organs.