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People fighting heart disease may suffer long-term effects after recovering from COVID-19

UT Physicians said to be on the lookout for things like chest pain, shortness of breath and swelling of the ankles or legs.

HOUSTON — February is designated as Heart Disease Awareness month.

Now more than ever it’s crucial to keep up with your heart health.

Dr. Enrique Garcia-Sayan with UT Physicians and assistant professor at UTHealth’s McGovern Medical School said heart disease remains the number one killer in adults, even surpassing COVID-19 deaths.

There are a lot of risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

RELATED: COVID-19 causes sharp drop in US life expectancy, CDC estimates

“One of the observations that we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic is an increase in illness and mortality from preventable, treatable conditions,” Garcia-Sayan said.

He said people with heart disease and who have recovered from COVID-19 may also suffer from long-term effects from the virus.

“The virus can actually damage the heart,” Garcia-Sayan said. “And, it is important for people who have recovered and survived COVID to also be aware of any symptoms that may represent cardiovascular disease.”

He said to be on the lookout for things like chest pain, shortness of breath and swelling of the ankles or legs.

“It is a really good opportunity to see a doctor and get checked up because you may need some specialized cardiac testing to look at the function of the heart chambers and look for any signs of damage from the COVID-19 virus,” Garcia-Sayan said.

Like COVID-19, heart disease is preventable.

Garcia-Sayan said people should do their part to stop things from getting worse.

It includes eating healthy, exercising regularly and getting regular checkups.