Questions remain on if, how COVID-19 impacts the human heart

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – There are so many unanswered questions when it comes to the long-term effects of contracting COVID-19.

One thing we know for sure is that it can impact heart health. Nearly one-fourth of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have been diagnosed with cardiovascular complications, according to the American Heart Association.

Ria Straker Gumbs spent more than two months in Tampa General Hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Her entire family of six contracted it but it hit her much harder than the rest.

Doctors put her on a ventilator almost immediately. On day two of her hospital stay, they asked if she had a cell phone to call her loved ones. The doctor said, “I want to intubate you because I fear if we wait, you won’t be here.”

Straker Gumbs spent three weeks on a ventilator and though she is now back home, she is nowhere near back to normal. She finds herself fatigued, tired, out of energy, and out of breath and is concerned her heart may be impacted.

Cardiologist Dr. Guilherme Oliveira is one of Ria’s doctors and the head of Tampa General Hospital and the University of South Florida’s Heart and Vascular Institute. He believes Ria’s issue is more lung-related than heart-related, but he is seeing a lot of heart issues connected to COVID-19, including myocarditis which is inflammation of the heart muscle.

“The thing we worry most about is that people with myocarditis will eventually develop heart dysfunction and heart failure,” Oliveira said.

According to the American Heart Association, a growing number of studies suggest many COVID-19 survivors experience some sort of heart damage even if they didn’t have underlying heart disease and weren’t sick enough to be hospitalized.

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