Covid-19 is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease and death in the short- and long-term, according to a study of nearly 160,000 participants published in Cardiovascular Research, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
Compared to uninfected individuals, the likelihood of Covid-19 patients dying was up to 81 times higher in the first three weeks of infection and remained five times higher up to 18 months later, it said.
“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,” said study author Professor Ian C.K. Wong of the University of Hong Kong, China.
“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.”
This study compared the occurrence of cardiovascular conditions and death in infected versus uninfected individuals recruited before December 2020, when no vaccines were available in the UK.
More than 7,500 patients with Covid-19 infection diagnosed from 16 March 2020 to 30 November 2020 were identified from UK Biobank. Each patient was matched with up to 10 individuals without Covid-19 during the study period (16 March 2020 to the end of follow-up on 31 August 2021) and a historical cohort before the pandemic (16 March 2018 to 30 November 2018).
Each uninfected group had more than 70,000 participants who were similar to the Covid-19 group for age, sex, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular and other health conditions, body mass index, ethnicity, and deprivation. In all three groups, the average age was 66 years and there were nearly equal numbers of women and men.
Professor Wong explained: “The historical control cohort was included to rule out the effect of routine healthcare services being reduced or cancelled during the pandemic, which led to worsening health and increased mortality even in uninfected people.”