Healthy Living: COVID-19 impacts on our hearts


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A new study finds Covid-19 can cause heart injury even in people without underlying heart issues. 

"The receptor that it binds to is present in heart muscle," said Dr. April Stempien-Otero, associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington

Dr. Stempien-Otero says many patients who are sick with Covid release enzymes into their blood that show they have damage to their heart. 

"We are still trying to do studies to determine whether or not the virus itself is binding to those heart muscles themselves and causing the damage, or whether the damge that is happening in hearts is just from the overwhelming infection and inflammation that patients are having."

The fact that Covid-19 is a respiratoy illness can actually intensify the impacts to your heart. 

"The lungs are the major source of infection but the lungs and the heart are very interconnected with each other, and inflammation in one or the other can affect (the heart)," Stempien-Otero say

When a heart muscle cell is damaged, if we lose one, it dies. The heart muscle doesn't repair itself, Stempien-Otero says. 

“Although the function may improve after the viral infection, if enough heart muscle cells have been damaged over time, the remaining cells can’t keep up with the work ... they’re missing their friends so to speak ... and that leads to congestive heart failure over time.”

"If you have chest pressure, discomfort, shortness of breath, call 911 or go to the ER. If you have fainting, call 911 or go to the ER. Do not be afraid that the ER, that you’re going to get something from the ER. We have everything setup so that the COVID patients are separate, it is a safe place to go," she says. 

Dr. Stempien-Otero says they are testing several different hypotheses at UW, including why patients with high blood pressure and diabetes are more susceptible to Covid-19, even more so than patients with lung disease. 

While researchers continue to learn more about Covid every day, Dr. Stempien-Otero says Seattle area residents should take advantage of the summer months. 

“It is summer in Seattle, please walk walk walk walk, because exercise is the best medicine, and we have to keep our bodies healthy and our minds healthy during this time, so if you’re gonna be baking extra scones, do extra walks," she says. 


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