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Tuesday March 23rd, 2021

Covid-19 one year on: the impact on the heart

One year on from the official date the UK entered into its first lockdown, we take a look back through the unprecedented crisis, the impact on the heart and the rapid research being conducted to support the global healthcare providers.

Initially Covid-19 was known for its impact on the respiratory system, from a persistent cough up to severe breathing difficulties. However,  as the pandemic spread globally, we saw increasing evidence linking the virus to cardiovascular issues, ranging from arrhythmia to heart failure. A growing number of studies suggests many Covid-19 survivors experienced some type of heart damage, even if they didn’t have an underlying heart disease and weren’t sick enough to be hospitalised. This latest development has healthcare officials worried about the potential increase in heart damage.

In the UK more than 25 million people have received their first dose of a vaccine as of 22 March 2021. Despite achieving this impressive milestone, the NHS has remained under immense strain and sustained pressure from the 4.3 million cases of Covid-19 during the course of the pandemic. Back in April 2020, we reported that “a backlog has been created, as global healthcare services are overwhelmed by the influx of infected patients, leading to other treatments going on hold.” This has significantly accelerated the research and development of solutions to relieve pressure from the healthcare services.


Official data shows

“200,000 people were waiting for investigations or treatment in cardiology or cardiac surgery in England at the end of January 2021 – around 46,000 had been waiting longer than 18 weeks, and more than 4,200 had been waiting for at least a year – up from just 28 at the end of February 2020.”

British Heart Foundation


Covid-19, one year and counting
In more severe cases of Covid-19, heart injury has been discovered in a staggering 50% of patients after being discharged from hospital. This was detected at least a month after discharge, according to research published by BHF researchers in the European Heart Journal. “It included inflammation of the heart muscle, scarring or death of heart tissue, restricted blood supply to the heart and combinations of all three.”

There are also concerns over increased cases of arrhythmia in patients with Covid-19. A JAMA Study found that 16.7% of COVID-19 patients developed arrhythmia whilst infected. Whilst most people with this condition will lead a healthy life,  according to the American Heart Association, if you have arrhythmia, you’re 5 times more likely to have a stroke than someone without. Failure to detect an underlying arrhythmia could be catastrophic, therefore the need for detection and management of this disease is crucial.

These statistics show that only a year into the pandemic, we are already seeing that the disruption caused by Covid-19 highlights the need for telemedicine to detect and manage heart health.


Wearable devices and heart health
A recent report revealed that the number of patients using telehealth increased in the United States from 11% in 2019 to 46% in 2020. This increase is driven by patients being encouraged to stay at home and avoid hospitals were possible to protect them from potentially being exposed to Covid-19 within the hospital environment.

The management of patients with cardiovascular disease in the Covid-19 era has been focused on how to diagnose as early possible and reduce the burden on healthcare providers by allowing them to filter down to those patients that need their support the most. With EKG being the primary tool for cardiologists, enabling remote management requires patients to have access to accurate medical grade EKG devices. The rise in patients experiencing atrial fibrillation and heart injury, combined with the increased use of telehealth during the pandemic is providing an opportunity for remote medical grade wearable devices to improve heart healthcare.


“A high-quality single lead EKG is enough to then make clinical decisions on drugs and devices. If the person or patient uses a wearable device that can record an EKG then this means that we can diagnosis and treat heart rhythm conditions more quickly and more accurately”

Dr Andrew Mitchell, Consultant Cardiologist, Jersey General Hospital


HeartKey® accurately monitors heart health
FDA cleared HeartKey® can empower a wide range of devices, including next generation wearables, with an embedded real time, low memory ECG solution which can detect various arrhythmias, while also performing a medically accurate health and wellness check. This enables a hospital at home solution for next generation wearables and many other devices, giving patients the ability to monitor their own heart health.