COVID-19 Infection May Have Long-Term Cardiovascular Effects for Young, Healthy Adults

Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

Young, healthy adults who had COVID-19 with only mild symptoms and who were not hospitalized may experience long-term cardiovascular effects, according to a study published in Experimental Physiology. According to the authors, increased arterial stiffness was found in young adults, which may impact heart health.

Whereas SARS-CoV-2 is mainly characterized by respiratory symptoms, recent studies have demonstrated changes to blood vessel function among young adults 3 to 4 weeks after infection. Researchers have found that the virus may have detrimental effects to arteries throughout the body, including in the carotid artery, which supplies the brain with blood.

In the current study, the researchers tested young adults 3 to 4 weeks after being infected with SARS-CoV-2 using an ultrasound on the carotid artery and took recordings of that image for 10 to 15 heart beats. These recordings were analyzed to measure carotid stiffness, using a control group of young healthy adults who were studied prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In terms of limitations, the researchers do not know whether the SARS-CoV-2 group had any innate decrements in arterial stiffness prior to contracting the virus, and menstrual cycle or variations in contraceptive use were not controlled for either group. However, previous research has indicated that contraceptive use and menstrual cycle fluctuations among young healthy females may not influence the outcome measures they were studying.

The researchers are following the study participants for 6 months after initial infection to determine whether and when arterial health improves. According to the authors of the study, future research should aim to study a more diverse patient population over time, especially older adults who are more susceptible to the virus and who may have underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

“These findings suggest a potential long-term impact of COVID-19 on young, relatively healthy adults who may otherwise think the virus may not be affecting them,” said Steve Ratchford, PhD, in a press release.

REFERENCE

Healthy young adults who had COVID-19 may have long-term impact on blood vessels and heart health [news release]. EurekAlert; May 6, 2021. Accessed May 7, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-05/tps-hya050621.php