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COVID-19: People with the condition ‘at much higher risk of heart failure’ – says doctor

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When an individual thinks of the long-term impact of COVID-19, what do they think of? They may think of the economic devastation, the large death toll, or the growing number of people with long-Covid. While all of these are in their own ways impressive, devastating, and tragic, they sadly do not provide the full picture of what is coming over the horizon. Express.co.uk recently talked to Dr Ziyad-Aly, one of the lead authors behind an explosive report that shows the long-term impact of COVID-19 could be much larger than originally thought.

The report, published in the journal Nature Medicine, shows that those who have had even a mild form of Covid are much more likely to develop heart related conditions.

Dr Aly said: “What we found is that people with COVID-19 across the board had a much higher risk of cardiovascular problems and that included strokes and TIAs including abnormal heart rhythms.”

What makes the results of the report so important is that the risk of heart conditions and heart failure was evident across all groups regardless of age, sex, gender, ethnicity, and regardless of whether not they had any cardiovascular risk factors.

Dr Aly added that the impact of this was significant: “[B]ecause of the enormity of it and the large number of people affected with Covid and subsequently large number of people affected with cardiovascular disease, that’s going to pose a serious challenge on already strained health systems like the NHS and health systems in the US.”

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At a time when health systems like the NHS and others around the world are only just starting to recover from two punishing years, this report shows that the greatest impact of Covid is not in the past, but is in fact yet to come.

The reason for this is because, says Dr Aly, patients with heart disease “will need care as most of these conditions are chronic conditions that will last a lifetime and need long term, ongoing care for the rest of their lives”.

COVID-19’s impact in this regard will be felt in the significant numbers of people who need long-term care, who will need treatment and guidance to manage heart conditions and their associated symptoms.

It’s not just the numbers of patients with cardiovascular problems that will rise either.

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As the world has seen, Covid can also affect the brain.

Dr Aly said Covid “also leaves its imprints on the brain and as a result of that we are also seeing an increased risk of brain or mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and some substance use disorders among people with COVID-19.”

This will add weight to the warnings expressed by NHS leaders earlier this week who have warned of a second pandemic post-Covid.

They have warned that more and more patients are coming in with mental health conditions such as eating, anxiety, and depression related disorders.

So, what can health services do to prepare for the inevitable tidal wave of patients arriving through their doors and GP surgeries in the next few years?

Dr Aly suggests: “There need to be more resources put into the [health] system to establish more post-Covid clinics…we need more into an integrated care system where people can receive comprehensive or integrated care for long-Covid.”

According to figures from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) released last year there are over one million people in the UK currently suffering from a form of long-Covid, a number set to rise in the coming months and years, particularly after recent changes in the UK Government’s Covid policy.

On Thursday the UK Government took the decision to lift the remaining Covid measures, including the legal requirement to self-isolate in the event an individual tests positive for the virus.

The decision has been controversial, with scientists and doctors criticising the move and questioning the evidence for such an important decision that comes at the same time the Government announced an end to free tests from April 1.

Dr Aly notes that part of this is down to an element of Covid-fatigue “All of us around the world are sick and tired of Covid and want it to be behind us…[but] I think it’s also our collective responsibility to be aware of the fact that Covid is not going to go away soon.”

One of the most significant pieces of evidence for this statement is this post-Covid report that demonstrates the pandemic is not over, rather that it is moving to a different phase, one that Governments around the world are currently unprepared for.

On this, in a warning that should be heard by those in charge of post-Covid recovery Dr Aly says: “It’s much more serious than most people think, that’s the unfortunate reality…what we are doing now is unlikely to be enough.”



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