Before Jennifer Fagan contracted COVID-19 in March 2020, she considered herself a fitness enthusiast. I went for a run two or three times a week and almost every other day I took yoga classes in the heat, a vigorous exercise. But several weeks after recovering from the early stages of the disease, he continued to experience chest pain and felt powerless all the time. In June, she began to panic. “I told my doctor that I felt like I was in the body of a 70- or 80-year-old man,” Fagan recalled.
She went to a cardiologist and a pulmonologist, but experts found no health problems in the initial tests on this 48-year-old woman. So Fagan went back to his running routine. Then, in December 2020, after returning from a two-mile slow walk, he went into cardiac arrest.
At first, neither her husband nor the EMS worker could figure out what had gone wrong. She was taken to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with a rare inflammation of the heart muscle known as myocarditis and fitted a defibrillator to stabilize her heart. But his heart trouble did not end there. While in the hospital, Fagan began to experience extreme dizziness. And since then he has experienced multiple COVID symptoms ranging from fatigue to shortness of breath to rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Studies estimate that 10% to 30% of people infected with the coronavirus may develop long-term symptoms. And in a recent analysis of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health records for more than 150,000 people who contracted COVID-19, researchers found that Covid survivors developed heart disease up to a year after their initial illness. There was a “substantial” risk of being. Even though his infections never brought him to the hospital. Compared to millions of other patients who were never infected, Covid survivors were 63 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 52 percent more likely to have a stroke. They also had a higher risk of heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, blood clots, and inflammatory disorders such as pericarditis and myocarditis.
The problem is that conventional medical tests to diagnose heart disease – such as EKGs, ultrasounds and other functional tests of the heart – often show that people who have had COVID-19 have no apparent heart damage. “When we do all those tests, they look really cool,” says Ruvanti Titano, a cardiologist at the Post-Covid Care Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. As a result, doctors have had to rethink how they diagnose and treat people with heart problems that persist long after a coronavirus infection.
If you have heart-related symptoms, whether it’s chest tightness or pain, shortness of breath, fast or skipped heartbeats, dizziness, or extreme tiredness, your healthcare provider should be able to rule out any heart abnormalities or damage. May want to do this basic test for system, Titano said. But new studies suggest the culprit may be damage to the nerve fibers that help control circulation. And this damage has a name: small fiber neuropathy.
Fortunately, tools already exist to treat many types of post-Covid neuropathy. “People don’t have to live with it for the rest of their lives,” said Salim Hayek, a cardiologist and co-director of the Persistent COVID-19 Clinic at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor. “Most of the time, these symptoms, which range from palpitations to dizziness, resolve within six months of treatment.”
According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who recover from COVID-19 get better when they receive personalized physical and mental rehabilitation services.
Amy Ridgway, a physical therapist and manager of the Emory Outpatient Rehabilitation Partnership in Select Physical Therapy, said that many persistent COVID patients may begin to see immediate improvement with a few simple breathing exercises. “One of the first things we teach is diaphragmatic breathing,” he said. Practicing deep abdominal breathing every day helps your lungs absorb much-needed oxygen and is known to help reduce pain and anxiety. “It’s a great technique for anyone,” Ridgway says.
If you experience flare-ups of symptoms after any type of exertion, a doctor may recommend that you manage your daily activity levels or keep a diary to help you get an idea of which ones. The activities can be too much mentally or physically. This self-monitoring technique, often used by people with chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis), assumes that people have a certain amount of energy that they can expend each day. . So small tasks like taking a shower or getting dressed can use less energy, while vacuuming or running to the end of your driveway can drain your energy too quickly, leading to a condition called post-exercise malaise.
Ridgeway said conserving energy throughout the day can help reduce post-Covid fatigue. “It’s a different approach to treatment than many other physical therapies, but we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to truly empower these patients.”
strength and aerobic exercise while seated
Doctors and therapists agree that people with persistent COVID-19 need to exercise at a very slow pace, often recumbent strength, before resuming basic aerobic conditioning and moving on to more intense upright movements. Begins with practicing. This may involve attempting to activate your core or Summary Do supine or lateral, balance exercises, or do cardio while seated on a recumbent bike or rowing machine. Your doctor will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels while you do these exercises and make sure you don’t have heart palpitations or any other cardiovascular symptoms, Titano explains.
standing upright walking and other aerobic exercises
Over time, you may become comfortable running on the elliptical or on a treadmill. Your doctor or physical therapist may also ask you to count your steps or try climbing stairs in your home several times a day. One of the goals set by Fagan’s cardiologist was to walk 5,000 steps a day, a goal the expert recommended in October 2021. “Now we’re in March and finished to reach it,” he said.
Progress in controlling persistent COVID symptoms can be extremely slow, so it is often encouraging to see improvement over time. People can track their data using a heart rate monitor on a smart watch, a blood pressure monitor or a pulse oximeter if they have one at home. Health care providers may recommend that you have a family member or friend help you use some of these devices, and to make sure you are fine while doing any exercises. “It’s nice to be able to track progress,” Fagan says. “It helps me personally because progress is incredibly slow. You don’t see it from day to day. You don’t even see it month to month. It’s a relatively yearly progress”.
If you’re experiencing really debilitating symptoms that keep you from doing everyday tasks — like doing laundry, going to work, or taking care of your kids, for example — you may need to take extra prescription drugs. Help and close professional monitoring of health may be needed, Hayek said. Depending on the person’s risk of heart disease and current symptoms, certain blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers or calcium antagonists (also known as calcium channel blockers), relieve excessive dizziness and chest pain and unusual symptoms. May help treat heart rhythm, he said. , And these drugs can be tapered once the cardiovascular symptoms have subsided.
However, adolescents and young children suffering from persistent covid are not fit to take many cardiac medicines. When caring for young patients, Sindhu Mohandas, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said she often recommends more lifestyle changes that, in addition to physical therapy, help patients focus in school and recover. can help. Your endurance game.
Lifestyle changes, such as managing your daily energy stores or gradually increasing your exercise capacity, may seem trivial, but they can have a big impact on reducing your long-term risk of stroke. Heart attack or stroke, said cardiologist Salim Virani at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. And health care providers are constantly learning more ways to help COVID patients improve their health, he said.
As far as Fagan is concerned, he hopes that working with his physical therapist and doctors will help him regain his fitness and eventually return to normal life. Just last month, she was able to go to a restaurant with friends and then walk in to a play at her daughter’s high school, which was “a big deal.”
“Sometimes there is no choice but to slow down,” he said. “And that’s fine.”