HONOLULU (KHON2) — A new study has been published linking the increase in heart attacks in adults aged 25-44 to COVID-19.
The study was conducted by the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and published in the Journal of Medical Virology.
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Researchers found that the overall number of heart attacks has increased by 14 percent for all age groups since the start of the pandemic.
By the second year of the pandemic heart attacks for the 45-64 age group by 19.6 percent and for those 65 and older by 13.7 percent.
However, it was the youngest age group [25-44] that had the highest increase of nearly 30 percent.
“There are several possible explanations for the rapid increase in cardiac death in patients with COVID-19, but there are still many unanswered questions,” said Yee Hui Yeo, MD, first author of the study and a Cedars-Sinai physician-scientist.
“Importantly, our results highlight differences in mortality that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and persist even through the Omicron era,” added Yeo.
Researchers said that prior to the pandemic, world statistics on heart attacks were declining, but the pandemic has interrupted that progress.
“The dramatic rise in heart attacks during the pandemic has reversed decades of steady improvement in cardiac deaths,” said Yeo. “We are still learning about the many ways COVID-19 affects the body, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or race.”
The team believes there are possible explanations even this early in the investigation. They said COVID-19 can trigger or accelerate those with the pre-existing condition of coronary artery disease.
There are external factors the team points to in order to understand this dramatic increase in heart attacks. Things like job loss, financial pressure and social anxiety that increased during the quarantine are seen as possible factors. All of these can lead to acute or chronic stress that can lead to heart disease.
“There’s something very different about the way this virus affects cardiac risk,” said Susan Cheng, MD MPH, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Division of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute and senior and co-corresponding author. of the study.
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“The difference is likely due to a combination of stress and inflammation, which stems from predisposing factors and the way this virus interacts biologically with the cardiovascular system,” Cheng added.