Experts have known that viral illnesses such as COVID-19 can cause respiratory infections that may lead to lung damage and even death in severe cases. Less is known about the effects on the cardiovascular system.
"It is likely that even in the absence of previous heart disease, the heart muscle can be affected by coronavirus disease.
Overall, injury to the heart muscle can happen in any patient with or without heart disease, but the risk is higher in those who already have heart disease," said study lead author Mohammad Madjid from McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in the US.
According to the study, published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, the researchers explained that findings from previous coronavirus and influenza epidemics suggest that viral infections can cause acute coronary syndromes, arrhythmias, and the development of, or exacerbation of, heart failure.
In a clinical bulletin issued by the American College of Cardiology, it was revealed that the case fatality rate of COVID-19 for patients with cardiovascular disease was 10.5 per cent.
Data also points to a greater likelihood that individuals over the age of 65 with coronary heart disease or hypertension can contract the illness, as well experience more severe symptoms that will require critical care, the researchers said.
According to the researchers, critical cases are those that reported respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction or failure that resulted in death.
"It is reasonable to expect that significant cardiovascular complications linked to COVID-19 will occur in severely symptomatic patients because of the high inflammatory response associated with this illness," said Madjid.
The novel virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified in January 2020. This novel virus originated in Wuhan, China, and on March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global pandemic.
The three most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other less common symptoms are muscle pain, sore throat, nasal congestion, and headache.
Previously identified coronaviruses known to cause severe illness in humans include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).
Data suggests that SARS-CoV may have resulted in cardiovascular complications, such as acute coronary syndrome and myocardial infarction, the researchers said.