ST. LOUIS – Researchers are working to find out how COVID is still affecting people’s hearts long after they have had the virus.

One thing is clear: even recent cases of the virus are still causing people to go to the emergency room or to their doctor with new heart issues.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis say the evidence is clear.

Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist, led the research done in the initial phases of the virus in 2020. He is continuing to research how later variants are impacting heart health.

Al-Aly says SARS-CoV-2 increases heart problems throughout the first year after infection. Doctors expect the risk to decrease after the first year, but research is still evaluating the long-term implications.

The doctor is still seeing patients of all ages who develop heart issues, even with mild cases of the most recent COVID variants. He is still seeing people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s coming back to his clinic with heart problems, heart attacks, and strokes.

Antivirals play a huge role in protecting the heart. Al-Aly says they are extremely underutilized.