A cardiologist has lifted the lid on the damage Covid-19 can do to your heart even as the Government reported 72 new cases of the disease yesterday.
While the narrative has always been that the disease is catastrophic to persons with cardiovascular disease (CVD) as an underlying condition, Prof Elijah Ogola says there is evidence of damage on people with healthy hearts.
It is, however worse, he says, on people who already have a cardiovascular disease as this by itself, impairs their immune system in fighting infections, among them the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
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Ogola says from what has been referenced before, in countries like China where the virus was first reported and Italy where the death toll was alarming, most of those who died from the disease are individuals with cardiovascular disease.
These diseases include heart failure, and coronary heart disease. Other risk factors were persons with hypertension, obesity and smokers as this group by having this conditions, are also at risk of cardiovascular diseases.
“This is ongoing work but basically any of these conditions - by mechanism that are complex - basically impair your immunity, which is the body’s ability to fight infections,” he says.
He adds, “If you look at Covid-19 patients who do not have specific cardiovascular disease and you look for markers of heart in injuries - and there are various markers - you find in quite a number of them there is cardiac injury even if they are relatively younger patients, and people who do not have heart disease.”
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The cardiologist explains when someone gets infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 for it to get to the body, it has to attach itself on receptors. “Theoretically, if more of these receptors are on the cells, then the likelihood of getting into the cell is higher therefore the likelihood of severe disease is higher,” he says. In April, the American Heart Society issued guidance on the renin-angiotensin class of drugs clarifying that they do not pose a risk to patients.
“These medications do not increase your risk of contracting Covid-19. They are vital to maintaining your blood pressure levels to reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and worsening heart disease,” reads the statement dated April 1, 2020.
Valsartan is one of the drugs found in this class of hypertension medicine. Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and hypertension are the three major causes of Kenya’s Covid-19 deaths according to Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Rashid Aman.
The number of recoveries stand at 499, with 2,093 confirmed cases so far.
Ogola says there is however still some skepticism on the damage Covid-19 causes to persons who do not have cardiovascular disease but have all the risk factors of developing one.
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This, he explains, is because Covid-19 is fairly a new disease and new in formation keeps emerging every day. “Hypertension manifests in a proportion of patients admitted with Covid-19. So the question is; is hypertension a risk factor or a package that comes with Covid-19?” he posed.