Heart health and COVID-19: What patients should know | Brand Ave. Studios



Monument Health Heart and Vascular Institute, member of Monument Health Hospital medical staff

February was American Heart Month, and as America continues to recover from a once-in-a-generation pandemic, one of the region’s leading cardiologists offers his insight on what the effects of COVID-19 could be on one of the body’s most important organs.

Alexander Schabauer, M.D., is part of the team at Monument Health Heart and Vascular Institute in Rapid City. Here is what he had to say about staying healthy as the pandemic enters its third year.

Cardiovascular risk associated with COVID-19

Based on what he has seen from COVID-19 patients, Dr. Schabauer said that “the reality is that most people who have had COVID-19 have some irritation of the heart muscle … We know it affects everybody a little a bit, but it’s a matter of whether it becomes a clinical problem.”

Less common effects to the heart that can be serious include myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle. Dr. Schabauer also warned that COVID-19 patients, particularly when they were in the throes of the illness, were at increased risk of clotting. Those clots can cause a leg clot or pulmonary embolisms, which can be a very serious health condition.

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“These were dramatic effects of the virus during the initial COVID-19 wave and later variants — people having dramatic heart attacks because you couldn’t stop a heart attack or people losing legs because you couldn’t reestablish blood flow,” he said.

COVID-19 is largely a respiratory illness, but, Dr. Schabauer said, as the virus puts stress on the respiratory system, it can lower oxygen levels and can create any number of heart stress events which can, among other events, cause a heart attack.

Longer-term effects

In general, the stress of COVID-19 is going to create a situation where “some patients have more damage to their hearts that they have to live with the rest of their lives,” Dr. Schabauer said.

He has seen patients who have had longer-term clotting risks post-COVID-19, which require on-going treatment and varied intensity of blood thinners.

Dr. Schabauer also spoke of the long-term effects that are common in long-haul COVID-19 patients, such as chronic fatigue and brain fog, among many other things.

“If you are a business owner and you don’t have the energy to work, particularly if you have fewer healthy workers, then you might have to close your business,” he said.

Staying proactive

“If you focus on staying active and reducing your weight, what you are really doing is reducing your risk as far as it pertains to problems related to COVID-19 and so many other areas,” he said. “The other thing is, don’t turn toward alcohol and tobacco as a way to cope with the situation. That just doesn’t work out well.”

He encourages patients to monitor their symptoms. If they are feeling weakness and fatigue, chronic shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat or chest pressure, they should see a doctor. Monument Health has special post-COVID-19 clinics to treat long COVID-19.

He also advises that patients get the vaccines and booster shots, if they are eligible.

“The reality is there’s a tenfold reduction of hospitalization, needing an ICU and likelihood of death, if you get the vaccine,” Dr. Schabauer said.

For more information about Monument Health, visit monument.health.

This content is provided for informational purposes only by Monument Health and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider for medical advice. Any views, thoughts or opinions in this paid post belong solely to Monument Health and do not represent the views of Brand Ave. Studios or its parent company.

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