Unhealthy Heart Linked With Higher COVID-19 Risk

Adverse cardiac phenotypes are associated with greater odds of contracting the virus.

A recent study published in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research has found that people with unhealthy heart structures and poor functioning could face a significantly higher risk of becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus. The study was conducted by investigators from Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit.

"There is currently a lot of uncertainty around the relationships between the heart and COVID-19. Our work adds a new perspective to this issue, helping to inform patient care and public health strategies,” Steffen Petersen, a professor of Cardiology at Queen Mary University of London who supervised the project said. “However, further studies in diverse populations and settings are required to definitively answer these questions."

Investigators behind the study used data from the comprehensive and internationally unique UK Biobank database that includes health and genetic information from over half a million participants from across the UK. The information also includes detailed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of their hearts as well as linkages to COVID-19 test results from Public Health England.

The study analyzed data from 310 participants to see whether or not pre-existing features of the heart anatomy and function were linked to having a positive test for COVID-19.

Findings from the study showed that for people with pre-existing unhealthy heart structures and poorer heart function, a positive COVID-19 test was much more likely. Even after accounting for possible predisposing factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and previous heart attack, the relationship appeared important.

"This national collaboration and the wealth of information available in the UK Biobank database permitted a highly detailed analysis, providing novel and unique insights into the complex interactions between the heart and COVID-19,” Nick Harvey, Professor of Rheumatology and Clinical Epidemiology at the MRC LEU, University of Southampton, who co-supervised the work said. “It illustrates the importance for the University of Southampton and the MRC LEU of our ongoing contribution to the leadership of the large, state-of-the-art, multidisciplinary Imaging Study as part of the unique world-leading UK Biobank resource."