Does COVID-19 Cause Heart Rate Issues?

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August 18, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Riple Hansalia, M.D.

While many people recovering from COVID-19 have no lingering symptoms, some are experiencing heart problems for the first time.

“We’re seeing a lot of patients with symptoms of palpitations or an increase in heart rate with minimal activity, where prior to COVID, they weren’t having any of these symptoms,” says Riple Hansalia, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “That’s been pretty common in our practice, nationally and worldwide.”

Signs of Concern

Contact your doctor if you have had COVID-19 and are experiencing any of the following:

  • Unusual fatigue
  • Feeling your heart beat rapidly or irregularly
  • Dizziness or light-headedness, especially upon standing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort

What Will Your Doctor Do?

These symptoms can be caused by simple dehydration or by being out of shape after battling COVID-19. But your doctor will want to evaluate any new heart symptoms that you’re experiencing.

This evaluation could include:

  • A clinical exam, checking for dehydration among other things
  • Wearing a portable electrocardiogram for 24 hours to monitor your heart rate and rhythm
  • An echocardiogram—an ultrasound of your heart—to look for cardiac damage
  • Taking your orthostatic blood pressure, which means checking your blood pressure in a lying, sitting and standing position

What Is Treatment Like?

“Treatment is typically the same post-COVID as if they didn’t have COVID-19. Even with these symptoms, we find that most patients recover back to a normal state after some time and without any type of treatment,” says Dr. Hansalia.

But there are indications that some post-COVID patients are experiencing serious complications such as atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots, stroke or heart failure. “We’ve found atrial fibrillation to be a bit more common after COVID-19 infection, and we believe it’s from the inflammatory state that COVID-19 causes,” says Dr. Hansalia.

Postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which is when a person’s heart rate increases abruptly after standing, has also been seen in post-COVID patients. These complications can occur in anyone in the post-COVID recovery phase but are more common in patients who had a myocardial or heart injury while infected with COVID-19 or in patients with pre-existing conditions. It’s understandable to want to get back to normal life as soon as possible after a COVID-19 diagnosis, but check with your doctor if you notice any worrying symptoms, especially ones that are new to you.

Next Steps & Resources:

 

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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