The full long-term impact of COVID-19 on our bodies is still yet to be understood. However, it is clear that some people take longer than others to recover with long Covid affecting around two million Britons. Now new research has found even a mild initial Covid infection could have dangerous consequences for our health.
Side effects included stiffer and more dysfunctional arteries that could lead to cardiovascular disease development.
The study also showed that the amount of time following the Covid infection was associated with increased ageing of the arteries.
Co-author Doctor Maria Perissiou, from the University of Portsmouth, said the results were surprising.
She said: “We were surprised to observe such a decline in vascular health, which deteriorated even further with time since COVID-19 infection.
Most were young – less than 40 years old – and considered healthy.
Only nine percent of the group had high blood pressure, and none had high cholesterol. Two were diabetic, and 78 percent did not smoke.
The group was also almost an even split between men (56 percent) and women (44 percent).
Professor Ana Jeroncic from the University of Split, who led the study, said: “Given the number of people infected with COVID-19 worldwide, the fact that infection can have harmful effects on cardiovascular health in young people who had a mild form of the disease warrants close monitoring.
“The question remains as to whether this harmful effect is irreversible or permanent, and if not, for how long it lasts.”
Dr Perissiou added: “This study, while small, does support the prediction amongst vascular physiologists that we’ll have an increase in cardiovascular disease in the future as a result of COVID-19 infections.
“But we have to consider what other variables would have contributed to this increase.”
The paper concluded the results have important implications for understanding the long-term cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19 infection and may guide prevention and management strategies for associated vascular disease.
However, it recommended further research is needed to strengthen our understanding of causes and contributing factors.