Although conclusive data are not yet available in Spain, the studies carried out in neighboring countries such as Italy indicate that the Covid-19 increases the number of cases of sudden death out-of-hospital. That is, those deaths that occur suddenly, in people who apparently are in good health, and are usually due to a heart attack. In Italy they have increased more than 50% since the virus arrived in 2020, compared to 2019.
Likewise, a study published in the journal ‘Heart Rhythm’ shows a moderate association between the rate of sudden death and the districts of New York with a higher percentage of positive antibody tests.
And the increase could be due, according to the diagnosis of the president-elect of the Spanish Society of Cardiology (SEC), Julián Pérez Villacastín, to a set of factors. Among them, it stands out that the pandemic has caused, in many people, a great fear of going to the hospital or to the family doctor, despite having symptoms such as chest pain, which could be indicative of angina pectoris or a heart attack. As long as they are not admitted and isolated from their families, many people endure at home without asking for help.
Lack of oxygen
Added to this are “specific” conditions caused by covid. For example, when it causes a very serious respiratory illness, not enough oxygen arrives to tissues, including the heart. “If you have any narrowing in the coronary arteries and oxygen falls sharply in the blood and if to that you add fever and other problems, which increase the need for oxygen in the organs, you find yourself with such a significant decompensation between supply and demand that can be produced damage to the brain, myocardium, lungs, where cells are destroyed, which we doctors call necrosis. This could lead to a heart attack, because not enough oxygen reaches it, “explains the cardiologist.
In addition, the covid triggers a series of defenses that alter the body itself, which can cause microtrombos in small arteries and mild heart attacks. This is what is called immunothrombosis, which can also cause death.
To this is added the possibility that big thrombi, usually in the legs but also in the abdominal veins, caused by covid and repose which causes fever and other symptoms such as fatigue. “When these thrombi reach the lung, they can clog the arteries and sudden death can also occur,” he adds.
There is also the possibility that the coronavirus infect the heart, as is also the case with the virus that causes the flu or some gastroenteritis. “But it is rare,” says the specialist.
Finally, it must be taken into account that medicines that were initially administered to seriously ill patients, such as hydroxychloroquine, antiretrovirals or azithromycin, produce electrical disturbances in the heart and “could have contributed“To the increase in unexpected deaths but, fortunately,” less than expected. Also, as its effectiveness has not been proven against the virus, they are hardly used anymore.
In addition, patients are now better monitored in hospitals than in the first wave, so Pérez Villacastín launches a message of “tranquility” and insists that, at the slightest symptom, especially if you feel chest pain, sudden dizziness or palpitations, seek professional help. Likewise, it recommends leading, more than ever, a healthy life and doing exercise regularly, because it is known that people who play sports suffer from covid less severely.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.