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COVID-19 infection could increase risk of strokes and heart attacks

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 10:31 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - February is National Heart Month, and this year, doctors are warning that COVID-19 could increase your risk for strokes and heart attacks.

The increased risk is due to many factors and doctors are also treating more people with strokes in younger age groups.

“There are many ways for COVID-19 to cause stroke or heart attacks. The most common way though is the inflammation,” Banner University Medical Center’s Dr. Ealaf Al Rabia said.

Inflammation from COVID-19 can affect the vessel making it form blood clots very easily. Common symptoms for moderate to severe COVID infections include inflammation, poor organ function, and the development of blood clots.

“But also, we have been seeing a lot the patients develop a state called hypercoagulation where their blood forms the clot without any reason,” she said.

Dr. Al Rabia says people with risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are more at risk for stroke during a COVID infection. She is seeing at least two patients each week with a stroke and COVID-19. Some of the patients are also younger than she typically sees.

“We have been seeing patients between age 35 and 55. They have higher risk for stroke compared to the people that do not have COVID,” she explains.

According to a study by The Lancet, in the week after being infected by COVID-19, the risk of a first stroke or heart attack increased by at least three times. In the following weeks, both risks decreased but stayed elevated for about a month.

One thing Dr. Al Rabia says that seemed to make the stroke less severe in COVID patients was the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Yes, we still see patient with COVID and stroke even after the vaccination, but I have noticed that after vaccination the severity of stroke is way less compared to the patient before vaccination,” she said.

She says there is still research being done on how the long term effects of COVID-19 could increase risk of strokes even after recovery.

Dr. Al Rabia says early detection of a stroke is vital.

So, remember to be fast and spot the signs.

  • B- sudden loss of balance
  • E- trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
  • F- face drooping
  • A – arm weakness
  • S – slurred speech
  • T – time to call 911 if any of these symptoms are present

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