In a recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers warn that three months after recovering from a Covid-19 infection, hospitalized patients are at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Scientists hypothesize that because the SARS-CoV-2 virus triggers pathways that could result in inflammation, being infected can affect different organs of the body. In their study, lead authors Emma Rezel-Potts, Martin Gulliford, and colleagues of King’s College London, United Kingdom, investigated whether a group of former Covid-19 patients developed diabetes or cardiovascular disease in the following year after being infected compared to those who had never contracted Covid-19.
They gained access to the medical records of more than 428,000 Covid-19 patients and even people who had not tested positive before. The researchers’ investigation revealed that Covid-19 patients had 81% more diagnoses of diabetes merely four weeks after they got infected with the virus. Their risk of developing diabetes also shot up by 27% for up to 12 weeks after infection.
The researchers also found a link between Covid-19 and cardiovascular diseases. A prior infection exposed people to a six-fold greater risk of suffering from arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats and pulmonary embolism or blood clots forming in the lungs.
“The information provided by this very large population-based study on the longer-term effects of COVID-19 on the development of cardiovascular conditions and diabetes will be extremely valuable to doctors managing the millions of people who have had COVID-19 by now. It is clear that particular vigilance is required for at least the first 3 months after COVID-19,” Ajay Shah, a co-author of the study said in a statement.
“Advice to patients recovering from COVID-19 should include measures to reduce diabetes risk, including diet, weight management, and physical activity levels, especially in view of heightened baseline risk,” the researchers concluded in their paper.
The good news is that the risk of developing a recent heart condition seemed to decline five weeks after infection. Within the next 12 weeks to one year, not only did the risk completely subside but the likelihood also reduced.
In a statement released by PLOS Medicine, Rezel-Potts said, “Use of a large, national database of electronic health records from primary care has enabled us to characterize the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus during the acute and longer-term phases following Covid-19 infection. Whilst it is in the first four weeks that Covid-19 patients are most at risk of these outcomes, the risk of diabetes mellitus remains increased for at least 12 weeks. Clinical and public health interventions focusing on reducing diabetes risk among those recovering from Covid-19 over the longer term may be very beneficial.”