PEOPLE who have had Covid are in greater danger of a sudden and deadly side effect.
Even those who didn’t have an illness severe enough to be hospitalised are at risk, doctors say.
Research, published in Nature Medicine, warned long-term effects could be seen in the heart and vascular system.
These include cardiac arrest, which is when the heart suddenly grinds to a halt.
It needs urgent medical attention, including CPR at the scene. Without this, a person will die.
The study discovered people who had battled Covid had a 2.5-fold higher risk of cardiac arrest in the year following than those who had not had the bug.
It was one of 20 serious side effects that could strike Covid survivors, with others inlcuding life threatening stroke and blood clots.
Experts looked at data for over 11 million US veterans, including 154,000 who had Covid.
They then estimated the risks within a year for various diseases of the heart and vessels.
The odds of a complication rose in line with Covid disease severity. But even those who had mild symptoms were still at risk.
The paper said: “These risks and burdens were evident even among individuals who were not hospitalized during the acute phase of the infection.”
Around 45 more people per 1,000 went on to develop any of the 20 conditions, compared to uninfected people.
“Covid is an equal opportunity offender,” Ziyad Al-Aly, the senior study author and chief of research at the VA St. Louis Health Care System, said.
“We found an increased risk of cardiovascular problems in old people and in young people, in people with diabetes and without diabetes, in people with obesity and people without obesity, in people who smoked and who never smoked.
“What really worries me is that some of these conditions are chronic conditions that will literally scar people for a lifetime.
“It’s not like you wake up tomorrow and suddenly no longer have heart failure.”
People who had Covid faced a 72 per cent higher risk of heart failure after 12 months.
Heart failure, a long-term condition, occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly, usually because it has become weak or stiff.
The 20 conditions:
- Atrial fibrillation
- Sinus tachycardia
- Sinus bradycardia
- Ventricular arrhythmias
- Atrial flutter
- Acute coronary disease
- Myocardial infarction
- Ischemic cardiomyopathy
- Heart failure
- Non-ischemic cardiomyopathy
- Cardiac arrest
- Cardiogenic shock
- Pulmonary embolism
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Superficial vein thrombosis
*symptoms and signs of each condition can be found on the NHS website
Heart disease risk was 72 per cent higher, and heart attacks 63 per cent.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in a major vein, was twice as high in those who had been Covid positive.
Meanwhile, a pulmonary embolism – blood clot on the lung – was almost three times more common in Covid survivors.
It it worth noting, however, that the study period ended before vaccines were available.
Almost all of the veterans studied had not had a single jab when they caught Covid.
The research did not investigate whether vaccines lessen the potential of developing serious side effects.
Evelina Grayver, director of women’s heart health at Northwell Health in New York, who wasn’t involved with the study, told Fox News: “There were 20 cardiac disorders that were diagnosed for those patients that are suffering from long haul Covid.
“The most common is the shortness of breath and fatigue.
“The new arrhythmias, or the abnormal heart rhythms that people experience, are significant as well and can become incredibly handicapping for a lot of patients.”
A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron is milder than other strains, especially in the vaccinated.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
It comes after another study found that those that battled the infection are more at risk of a life-threatening condition that already affects five million Brits.
They were 46 per cent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes for the first time in the year following a positive test.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed. But left untreated, it has a number of serious complications including heart attack, stroke and amputations.
The finding was true even for people who had less severe symptoms, or none at all.
And it’s also seen in children who catch the virus.
The team at Imperial College London also analysed hospital data from five hospitals across North-West London during the peak of Covid-19 in April 2020.
They found that there were double the amount of children being diagnosed with diabetes.
Around 70 per cent of the children tested had already ran out of insulin – a condition know as diabetic ketoacidosis which can be life threatening.
Meanwhile, a Swedish study published in April 2022 found people who get Covid are more likely to get blood clots in the year and a half following.
There was a risk of DVT up to three months post-infection and of a blood clot in the lung up to six months later.
It is thought there is a higher risk of blood clots after catching Covid due to the massive inflammatory response that can happen in some patients.
Impact on the brain
Covid survivors have also been warned that the brain could be irreversibly harmed by the virus.
The major organ has been shown in dozens of studies to be damaged in even the mildest forms of Covid illness – most recently by University of Oxford.
Looking at almost 800 Brits, the team found thsoe who had battled Covid had a greater reduction in grey matter thickness and tissue damage in regions of the brain associated with smell.
They had a reduction in whole brain size and, after performing a number of tests, showed a drop in cognitive function.
Professor Gwenaëlle Douaud, lead author on the study, said the infection had been mild for 96 per cent of the participants.
“A key question for future brain imaging studies is to see if this brain tissue damage resolves over the longer term” Prof Douaud said.
How to perform CPR
First off, is the person in cardiac arrest?
If someone is in cardiac arrest, they collapse suddenly and:
- Will be unconscious
- Will be unresponsive and
- Won’t be breathing or breathing normally – not breathing normally may mean they’re making gasping noises.
Step 1 – Shake and shout
First things, first… check for danger and anything that could put you at risk.
Gently shake the person who’s unconscious and try to get them talking.
If you’re on your own shout for help but don’t leave the person.
Step 2 – Check breathing
A person suffering a cardiac arrest won’t be breathing.
Keeping their head back check for signs they are breathing.
Regular chest movements
Listening for breathing
Feeling for breath against your cheek
Look and listen for no more than ten seconds.
If you’re not sure, assume they’re NOT breathing.
Open their airway, by putting your hand on their forehead and gently tilting their head back.
Lift the person’s chin using two fingers of your other hand.
If you’re certain they’re breathing put them in the recovery position and dial 999.
Step 3 – Call 999
If someone isn’t breathing, get someone nearby to dial 999.
And ask if there’s a public access defibrillator available.
If there’s no one to help, call 999 then start CPR.
Step 4 – Give 30 chest compressions
Kneel next to the person.
Place the heel of one hand in the middle of their chest and the your other hand on top, and interlock your fingers.
Using straight arms, press down into the breast bone firmly and smoothly, so the chest is pressed down by 5-6cms.
Release and repeat at a rate of around two per second.
Give 30 chest compressions.
Step 5 – Two rescue breaths
Open the person’s airway, tilt back their forehead and lift their chin. Pinch their nose.
And take a normal breath, make a seal around their mouth and breathe out.
You should see the person’s chest rise and fall as you do it.
Repeat twice – the two breaths should take no longer than five seconds.
Step 6 – Repeat
Keep repeating 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until paramedics arrive.
If you would rather not give rescue breaths, call 999 and continue with chest compressions, it’s better than doing nothing.