ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — There is new research about the long-term consequences of a COVID-19 infection as it relates to cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Jeff Harp from Highland Family Medicine discussed the finding Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

Is there new information about the long-term consequences of Covid infection?

Yes, it seems there are permanent changes in many people’s health after COVID, many of which are being actively studied. A recent study focused on cardiovascular disease.

The study looked at the frequency of development of cardiovascular disease over a 2-year period in 5.5 million veterans who were alive at least a month after having COVID. It compared that frequency with the frequency over 2 years in a similar group the 2 years prior to the COVID pandemic. The groups were 10% female, 20% black, and on average 62 years old.

What did the study find?

People who had COVID were about twice as likely to develop a cardiovascular condition compared with people who did not have COVID, a significant increase. The more severe the COVID disease, the higher the risk. For example, there would be approximately 5 additional diagnoses of heart failure in 1000 non-hospitalized people, 45 additional diagnoses of heart failure in 1000 hospitalized people, and 78 additional diagnoses in 1000 people who needed ICU care. Heart attack and stroke frequencies were also increased.

What does this mean practically?

Everyone benefits from lowering their risk factors for cardiovascular disease through smoking cessation, diet, exercise, and medication (if necessary) to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. People who are at increased risk, including those who have had COVID, likely will benefit even more. Most of us have not been seeing our primary care clinician regularly during the worst of the pandemic. We all would be wise to get back into that habit, especially those of us at higher risk.

What else should I do?

Always, but especially in this case, if you have had COVID, take cardiovascular symptoms seriously. These include chest pain, shortness of breath, sudden unexplained fainting for heart problems and facial drooping, arm weakness, and trouble speaking. Contact your primary care clinician, or go to either an urgent care center or emergency department to be checked.

And if you have not been fully vaccinated, get your next vaccination soon. We know that vaccination makes COVID infection less severe for most people. And as we have been discussing, the milder the COVID infection the less increased risk for serious cardiovascular diseases.