COVID-19 Increases Rate of Heart Attacks in Those With Genetic Risk

Rates of acute myocardial infarction were higher in those with genetic risks for familial hypercholesterolemia.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the Familial Hypercholesterolemia Foundation has discovered that COVID-19 increases the rate of heart attacks in those who have genetic risk of high cholesterol, heart disease or both.

Findings from the study were published in the American Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

"These results are significant because these data underscore the importance of understanding if individuals have underlying cardiovascular disease or genetic high cholesterol when treating for COVID-19 infection or considering vaccination," Kelly Myers, an author on the study said.

For the study, the team of investigators looked at 55,412,462 individuals with or without COVID-19 and separated them into 6 matched cohorts. These cohorts included groups with a diagnosis of familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), probable FH and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD).

They then analyzed the groups for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and baseline differences between patients.

Findings from the study demonstrated that rates of AMI were significantly increased in the patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 when compared to those who were not. Rates were even higher when the patient was diagnosed with FH, probable FH or ASCVD.

Additionally, patients with a history of ASCVD and diagnosed with COVID-19 had a significantly higher rate of AMI when compared to the population with COVID-19 but without ASCVD or FH.

"The highest heart attack rates occurred in individuals infected with COVID-19 who had preexisting cardiovascular disease and were flagged by the FIND FH model as probable FH. We speculate that because these individuals have yet to receive an FH diagnosis, they may not be receiving appropriate lipid lowering treatment placing them at significantly higher risk," Mary McGowan, an author on the study author said. "This study is a call to action to diagnose individuals with this deadly genetic condition who are hiding in plain sight within our healthcare system, and take particular precautions related to COVID-19 infections. FH is an untapped opportunity for heart disease prevention."