While the fear of Covid-19 might have gone from our lives, the consequences of this life-threatening disease continue to haunt us. Exertion after Covid-19 is even proving fatal for some. Multiple young people lost their lives while performing garba during this recent 2023 Navratri season and reports suggest that these deaths could be an after-effect of Covid-19.
According to news reports, six people died due to heart attacks while performing Garba, at community gatherings, in Gujarat. This included one woman and one teenager as well. Besides this, 22 more people died due to heart attacks during this time, in the state. In fact, according to the data shared by the 108 ambulance service, nearly 750 cardiac emergency calls were made between October 15 and October 22, 2023. State health minister Rushikesh Patel said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has linked these deaths to exertion after a bout of Covid.
“The ICMR has conducted a detailed study. As per this study, those who have suffered from severe Covid-19 infection should not overexert themselves. They should stay away from hard workouts, running and strenuous exercises for a short time, say a year or two, so as to avoid heart attacks,” he was quoted as saying.
The link between heart attack and Covid-19
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya recently cited the same ICMR study, explaining that people must refrain from pushing the limits of physical activity for sometime after Covid.
There have been various studies that showcase links between heart diseases and Covid-19, listing it as one of the biggest long term after-effects of the coronavirus. A study, published in Nature Medicine, talks about the long term, cardiovacular effects of Covid-19. The study states that after the first 30 days of infection till up to a year, people who suffered Covid-19, showcased an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Another study published in The Scientist examined how athletes experienced heart damage after Covid-19. Players in the study were found to experience heart inflammation, the result of a condition called Myocarditis, which may lead to a sudden cardiac arrest.
How does Covid affect the heart?
Dr. Bipin Dubey, HOD and Consultant Cardiac Science, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka, explains that a large section of people who have been infected with Covid, have been experiencing various heart problems. He says this is because their body has an increased tendency to form clots in blood vessels, and this leads to heart attacks.
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“Around 15-20 percent of Covid-19 patients are experiencing heart problems. The most common heart problem is a heart attack because of the increased tendency to form clots in the blood vessels. This means the arteries that send blood and oxygen to the heart get blocked, leading to a heart attack. In a minority of patients (3–5%), Covid directly affects the heart muscle, creating weakness in the heart muscles and leading to heart failure, called Covid-induced cardiomyopathy,” he says.
This poses as a bigger danger in people who already have heart problems. “Those patients who already have blockages in the coronary arteries are more likely to develop blockages in the coronary arteries, leading to a heart attack,” he says.
However, he adds that even without any prior history of heart disease, a heart attack can happen as a post-Covid complication. “In certain cases, even without previous blockages, normal coronary arteries become clogged because of Covid. So, the incidence includes both cardiomyopathy and the incidence of heart attacks, which is between 15-20%,” he says.
How to avoid a heart attack after Covid-19
Here are some basic and practical steps that can be taken to lower the risk of a heart attack, according to Dr Prateek Chaudhary, consultant interventional cardiology, Asian Hospital.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle by having a balanced and nutritious diet coupled with regular physical exercise.
- Stay away from smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Manage underlying health conditions appropriately and stay informed about Covid prevention guidelines and vaccination.
- Go for regular medical check ups and managing heart related issues accordingly.
- Practise stress management techniques such as meditation to take care of your mental health and prioritise overall well-being.
Other common side effects of Covid
According to a study published in Scientific Reports, the most common after-effects of Covid are fatigue, head ache, attention disorder, hair loss and dyspnea, which refers to a condition where you feel you are running out of air and experience discomfort in breathing. The study also includes other after-effects such as lung disease, cough, chest discomfort, sleep apnea and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as neurological diseases, such as dementia, depression, anxiety, attention disorder, as conditions that are also common after Covid.