Your chances of dying or having severe complications from COVID-19 are much higher if you're unvaccinated and have heart problems or heart disease risk factors, researchers warn.
In a new study, British investigators analyzed 110 previous COVID-19 studies that included a total of nearly 49,000 unvaccinated patients.
The researchers found that unvaccinated people with evidence of heart muscle damage when they were hospitalized for COVID-19 had a ninefold higher risk of death. This group was also more likely to have major complications such as severe lung failure (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and acute kidney injury. They also had higher rates of intensive care admission and mechanical ventilation.
In addition, unvaccinated people with pre-existing high blood pressure, diabetes or heart artery disease had a two- to threefold increased risk of death, and up to a 2.5-fold increased risk of COVID-19 complications, according to the report published online recently in the journal Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine.
Those with diabetes had the highest risk of severe lung failure, the study authors noted.
"These findings present a strong case for these at-risk groups to be prioritized for vaccinations and other preventative measures. This is especially true in low- and middle-income countries, where the impact of cardiovascular disease is particularly high," said study co-author Dr. Ajay Gupta, senior clinical lecturer at Queen Mary University of London.
"In more developed countries, groups with cardiovascular risk factors in addition to other vulnerable groups could be selected for booster and annual vaccination programs, similar to the influenza vaccination program," Gupta said in a university news release.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart artery disease were already common risk factors for heart attack and stroke, the study authors explained.
"These findings can help us identify unvaccinated individuals who are at a higher risk of worse outcomes, even without special tests," said study co-author Sher May Ng, of Barts Health NHS Trust. "This is particularly relevant where health care resources are limited but the proportion of unvaccinated individuals remains high."
The American Heart Association has more on COVID-19 vaccines.
SOURCE: Queen Mary University of London, news release, May 4, 2022