Advances in Care, Impact of COVID Highlights of Latest Cardiologists' Meeting

FRIDAY, Nov. 19, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The COVID-19 pandemic, heart-healthy eating, and better ways to treat and prevent heart disease were among the hot topics that emerged during the American Heart Association's annual meeting this week.

"I was at the sessions yesterday, I was actually in clinic this morning, and there were things I learned at the sessions that are affecting how I care for my patients," Dr. Manesh Patel, chair of the meeting, said during a HealthDay Now interview.

Heart doctors are still grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people's heart health, and that served as one theme of the meeting, said Patel, chief of cardiology with the Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, N.C.

One major study tracking more than 1.7 million patients found that efforts to control blood pressure dramatically slipped during the pandemic, increasing those folks' chance of heart attack, stroke and heart disease.

The percentage of people whose blood pressure was under control slipped from 60% prior to COVID to about 50%.

"A 10% loss in people that have controlled blood pressure, just for that first six- to 12-month window of COVID — we know that unfortunately that will lead to aftereffects of the pandemic, with higher rates of cardiovascular events for many people," Patel said.

On the other hand, an opening lecture at the meeting put into perspective the risk of myocarditis caused by COVID-19 vaccines, Patel said.

The speaker noted that rates of myocarditis in vaccine clinical trials probably were overstated, because the biochemical used to diagnose heart inflammation and damage can be abnormally increased in young males, he said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of myocarditis among vaccine recipients "is maybe 30 to 50 times less than the rate associated with COVID itself, and is much less associated than all the other co-morbidities that happen when you get COVID," Patel explained.

"I have a 14-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son and both have gotten vaccinated," he said. "I see the benefits of the vaccine [to be] much greater than the risk."