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Atrial Fibrillation and Covid: What You Need to Know Now

Atrial fibrillation and covid. Here’s what you still need to know about the surprising connection.

Shortness of breath. Fever. Cough. Ventilators. These words inundated the news for much of 2020 – 2021. While the world discussed taking two weeks to “flatten the curve,” it quickly became apparent that Covid-19 had booked an extended stay. Many people donned their masks, hoping to protect themselves and others from this dangerous respiratory illness. Yet, fast forward nearly two years, and despite promises of a vaccine cure, very little has changed. 

What is different, however, is our understanding of the coronavirus. What we once thought was predominantly an illness of the lungs has turned out to be a systemic disease that impacts all body systems, including the heart. For many, Covid and AFib go hand-in-hand. While intricately linked, there are ways to protect yourself from both. 

Covid-19 and the heart 

Covid-19 has long been thought of as a disease that predominantly impacts the respiratory system. However, while cough and shortness of breath are certainly symptoms of Covid-19, its impacts extend well beyond the respiratory system. Many patients with Covid-19 develop heart conditions, including atrial fibrillation. 

The mechanisms by which arrhythmias develop due to Covid-19 are not yet fully understood. Scientists have long speculated that there may be a viral component to the development of AFib, and perhaps Covid-19 is no different. Evidence exists that the virus is capable of damaging the heart muscle directly. 

Other studies suggest that Covid-19 heart damage results from high levels of inflammation in the body. As the body’s immune system works to combat the virus, the inflammatory process damages the heart and the lining of the blood vessels. 

Finally, any infection makes the heart work harder. To fight the unwanted invader, the body releases chemicals that cause inflammation. As a result, the body develops a fever, elevating the heart rate and blood pressure. Lung congestion increases the heart’s effort as well. Fluid imbalances and low oxygen levels add to its work. The added stress on the cardiovascular system can be overwhelming, especially if a heart is already weak. 

Does Covid-19 cause AFib?

There is still so much we don’t know about the coronavirus. However, increasing evidence suggests a strong link between the virus and atrial fibrillation. A large study of close to 22,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients found that approximately 11 percent had AFib. The incidence of AFib was higher in patients with more severe cases of the virus.

Many Covid-19 patients first experience AFib while infected with the virus. For example, one study found that new-onset AFib occurred in 12.5 percent of hospitalized Covid patients. The authors noted potential triggers for new-onset AFib in the hospital included low blood pressure, poor oxygen, fluid imbalances, and blood pressure medication. Another recent study found that steroids, a common drug used to treat Covid-19 in the hospital, can increase the risk of AFib. 

No study has definitively concluded that Covid-19 causes AFib directly. However, evidence suggests that contracting the virus increases the odds of developing the heart arrhythmia. Additionally, since most studies occur in a hospital setting, there is very little data on the impact that having Covid-19 has on AFib in an outpatient setting. Therefore, it’s entirely possible, and even likely, that Covid-19 has triggered AFib in some people without their knowledge.

Does AFib increase your risk of Covid? 

Age is not your friend when it comes to Covid-19 or AFib. The risk of diagnosis for both conditions increases with age. As chronic illness is stressful for the body, it often puts individuals at higher risk of developing other infections. 

Research is still emerging on the exact link between AFib and Covid-19. Individuals with AFib suffer from various symptoms that impact the lymphatic system, such as poor blood circulation, fluid buildup, and low blood pressure. Additionally, individuals with AFib may be less active. As such, immunity is sometimes lower in those with AFib. 

Additionally, while AFib itself has not been identified as a risk factor for contracting Covid-19, many individuals with AFib have other comorbidities that could increase the risk. Most people with AFib have additional risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and other metabolic issues. 

While AFib might not increase the risk of Covid, individuals with cardiac disease are at a higher risk for severe complications from the virus. In a recent study, researchers followed over 3,100 Covid-19 patients with pre-existing AFib. They found that patients with the arrhythmia were 62 percent more likely to suffer a major cardiac event than those without AFib. What’s more, AFib patients were 40 percent more likely to die from Covid-19. The findings confirmed previous studies suggesting that when compared to those with a healthy heart, AFib patients who get Covid-19 face significantly higher unfavorable outcomes, including death. 

I’ve recovered from Covid. Am I in the clear?

Individuals who have recovered from Covid have a reason to celebrate. Not only were they healthy enough to survive the illness, but they now have antibodies protecting them from reinfection for the foreseeable future. 

Our bodies are innately intelligent, and natural immunity will always supersede acquired immunity achieved by vaccinations. While studies surrounding how long immunity lasts after infection vary, one thing is certain: individuals who have had Covid-19 have low rates of reinfection. 

A new study concluded that individuals with natural immunity have much higher protection against reinfection than the vaccinated. For the study, individuals previously infected with Covid-19 had a 10.5 per 100,000 infection rate four to six months following recovery. On the other hand, vaccinated individuals had a 69.2 per 100,000 case rate. While the research still needs peer review, it aligns with other studies

So, if you’ve already had Covid-19, you are in the clear, right? Not necessarily. Long-term symptoms of Covid can linger well past the infectious state. These “long-haulers” suffer from fatigue, headaches, brain fog, and cardiac disorders. Even a year later, recovered individuals have significantly higher rates of heart problems. A study found that those who survived Covid-19 had a 79 percent higher risk of having AFib than those who did not have Covid. 

While recovery from Covid-19 is worth celebrating, it’s important to address the factors that may have made you more susceptible in the first place. 

Blood clots: a shared complication 

Individuals with atrial fibrillation are at increased risk for blood clots. Although by a different mechanism, Covid-19 also increases the risk for blood clots. In both conditions, the risk for blood clots increases if the individual has other comorbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity. The effect of having both diseases at the same time has on blood clots is not yet completely known. However, one could assume that the risk for blood clots goes up substantially with both conditions. 

What can we do to lessen our susceptibility to viruses?

Sadly, many people in our society have handed their health over to others, and the results are tragic. The best way to protect yourself from viruses is to enhance your immune system. Ironically, many things that will help guard against viruses are also heart-protective. You can bulletproof your immune system by following these practices:

  • Eat organic food
  • Get plenty of sunshine 
  • Increase your activity 
  • Get quality sleep
  • Reduce stress 
  • Spend time in nature 
  • Avoid toxic chemicals 
  • Reduce EMF exposure
  • See your chiropractor 

Next steps

We always prefer a preventative approach to a reactive one, and there’s no time like the present to embrace this philosophy. The good news is that both Covid and AFib are often preventable through a healthy lifestyle. Get connected with one of our expert health coaches who can help you create an effective, practical action plan to boost your immune system and allow you to live your healthiest life.

Eat well, Live well, Think well

Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza 2022

In order to live well, one must eat well.

Get the Natural Heart Doctor approved Diet and discover how to eat for your 100 Year Heart.

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Discover how we can help you achieve your 100 Year Heart.

About Dr. Keith Smigiel NP, DC

Dr. Keith Smigiel

Dr. Keith Smigiel is a regenerative medicine physician and pain management specialist. He takes an integrative approach to medicine, focusing on customized solutions tailored to individual needs. Using advanced, non-surgical treatments, Dr. Smigiel stimulates your body’s ability to naturally heal itself.

Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.

Chiropractic

Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Acupuncture

Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.