Deaths from COVID-19 have fallen dramatically and since the beginning of 2023 have decreased by 95% globally, according to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). Yet scientists continue to find sequelae of coronavirus infection, and a new study suggests that even mild cases of COVID they can have a negative effect on long-term cardiovascular health.
In this research, for the first time, the arterial stiffness levels – a marker associated with aging and artery function – before and after SARS-CoV-2 infection. The symptoms that remain after overcoming the disease and are known as Persistent COVID they had already been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, among other health problems.
The researchers used baseline measurements from a group of people—mostly younger than 40 and in good health—who participated in another study that began before the pandemic to study arterial stiffness. 78% of these people were non-smokers, only 9% had high blood pressure, and two were diabetics. The participants (56% men and 44% women) were monitored between October 2019 and April 2022 in the Vascular Aging Laboratory of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Split.
Stiffer and aged arteries after a mild COVID
The results have been published in Journal of Clinical Medicine and show that age and time since coronavirus infection are associated with a increased aging of the arteries. The central cardiovascular and arterial function of those diagnosed with mild COVID-19 was affected by the disease two to three months after infection. Side effects include stiffer and dysfunctional arteries that could lead to the development of cardiovascular disease.
“Emerging evidence suggests that COVID-19 triggers the autoimmune process that leads to impairment of the circulatory system”
The Dr. Maria Perissioufrom the Faculty of Sports, Health and Exercise Sciences of the University of Portsmouth and study co-author said: “We were surprised to see such a decline in vascular health, which deteriorated further over time since COVID-19 infection. Generally, it is expected that the inflammation decrease over time after infection and all physiological functions return to normal or healthy level”. And he adds: “We can only speculate on the causes of this phenomenon without further investigation, but emerging evidence suggests that it is due to the fact that COVID-19 triggers the autoimmune process that leads to deterioration of the circulatory system.”
The teacher Ana Jeroncic from Split Universitywho led the study, concludes: “Given the number of people infected with COVID-19 worldwide, the fact that the infection may have deleterious effects on cardiovascular health in the youngs that they had a mild form of the disease warrants close surveillance.” “It remains to be answered whether this harmful effect is irreversible or permanent and, if not, how long it lasts.”