Aug. 14 (UPI) -- COVID-19 causes heart problems that range from irregular heartbeats to angina and worsens pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, according to an analysis published Friday by PLOS ONE.
Just over 14% of people hospitalized due to infection with the new coronavirus developed heart complications due to the disease, the researchers said.
That's in addition to the nearly 13% of all people hospitalized who had pre-existing heart conditions at the time of their admission, they said.
Roughly 10% of those with pre-existing heart problems or who developed heart complications after becoming infected died, the data showed.
"We found that both pre-existing cardiovascular [disease] ... and the development of cardiovascular complications are associated with fatality rate COVID-19 [in] patients," wrote the researchers, from Magna Graecia University in Catanzaro, Italy.
The findings -- based on an analysis of 21 studies that included more than 77,300 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in the United States, Asia and Europe -- add to evidence that people with heart disease are at increased risk for serious illness from the virus, as well as damage to the heart, the researchers said.
Although the majority of COVID-19 patients develop mild symptoms, older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, chronic lung disease or diabetes are at risk for serious illness from the virus, the researchers said.
Data from the American Heart Association indicates that nearly one in four people with COVID-19 experience heart-related complications.
"Much remains to be learned about COVID-19 infection and the heart," Dr. Mitchell S. V. Elkind, the American Heart Association president, said in a statement released Friday.
"Although we think of the lungs being the primary target ... several devastating complications of COVID-19 are cardiac in nature and may result in lingering cardiac dysfunction beyond the course of the viral illness itself," said Elkind, who is an attending neurologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
In the PLOS ONE study, just over 36% of the hospitalized patients had high blood pressure before admission, while slightly fewer than 20% had diabetes, according to the researchers.
Roughly 11% of them were smokers and approximately 34% met the criteria for obesity, or being severely overweight based on body mass index, the data showed.
Just under 12% of the patients had a history of coronary artery disease before hospital admission for COVID-19, while nearly 10% had been diagnosed with heart failure and slightly more than 5% had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, the researchers said.
Once they were hospitalized with the virus, just over 10% showed evidence of damage to the heart, while approximately 10% experienced angina, the data showed.
Roughly 18% experienced irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations, while 4% suffered heart attacks and 2% were diagnosed with acute -- or serious -- heart failure, according to the researchers.
Although the overall fatality rate in those with heart complications from COVID-19 was 9.6%, roughly 42% of people admitted to intensive care units for heart-related ailments stemming from or made worse by the virus died, the data showed.
"Clinicians should be aware of the potential impact of cardiovascular conditions and complications in COVID-19 patients, which should require more extensive and frequent monitoring," the researchers wrote.