Researchers find “clear link” between COVID-19 and heart disease

Aug 18, 2020, 8:14 PM

COVID-19 Heart Disease...

(Image credit: Getty Image)

(Image credit: Getty Image)

SALT LAKE CITY—An Intermountain Health Care doctor shares that mounting evidence proving a clear link between COVID-19 and heart disease. 

Kirk U. Knowlton MD, from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, looked at more than 100 published studies related to COVID-19 and heart disease.  It’s published this week in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology.  He talks about his findings in a Zoom call and a statement from IHC released Tuesday. 


Dr. Knowlton says, “There’s clear evidence that COVID can cause heart disease… it affects around one in five patients admitted to the hospital with [the virus.]”  He says this works in two ways. One is from increased clotting in heart vessels, the other from inflammation triggered by the immune system’s fight against the virus. 

The clotting manifestation includes a disorder that may appear as deep-vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.  

The inflammatory effects are varied and can damage the heart as well as other organs. Dr. Knowlton found multiple reports of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, that can damage the heart and affect its ability to pump blood.  Virus-driven myocarditis was one of the reason’s the NCAA’s PAC 12 conference gave when they postponed fall sports this year. 

Dr. Knowlton explains the inflammation that can come with COVID is a reaction from our own defenses against the virus. “Many patients with severe disease experience a cytokine storm. The immune system goes into overdrive and attacks its own cells. This causes multi-organ failure,” he said. “These attacks to the heart are one of the ways that we believe the virus can cause heart damage and myocarditis.”  He says the link is not absolutely clear.

Knowlton believes this also is the culprit behind the Kawasaki-mimicking Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, that’s seen in children who’ve had COVID. MIS-C is rare. 


Interestingly, Dr. Knowlton thinks the body’s potential inflammatory reaction to COVID gives us insight in how to treat the virus. Treating COVID-19, he said, “is about finding a balance between allowing the immune system to fight the virus, but not so hard that it hurts the heart.” Knowlton says treatments that hurt the virus’s ability to replicate itself would prevent such a severe immune response.  He noted this is how anti-body treatments and the drug Remdesivir can be successful.

Dr. Knowlton points out that this link between heart diseases and transmittable viruses isn’t new. Autopsies of patients who died during the 1918 flu pandemic found heart damage, and 50% of patients who died of polio from 1942 to 1951 had myocarditis, he said.



We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


baby feet, utah postpartum retreat helps new moms...

Britt Johnson

Utah company aims to help postpartum moms with special retreats

The founder of Utah Postpartum Retreat said she thinks new moms are at high risk for developing postpartum mood disorders because they lack support.

45 minutes ago

A nurse works in the laboratory room in El Nuevo San Juan Health Center at the Bronx borough in New...

Tammy Kikuchi

Skeptics have doubts about universal health care model for Utah

One of the biggest concerns is affordability, according to a recent presentation at the Kem C. Gardener Policy Institute.

2 days ago

FILE: Vietnam War veterans gather for a photograph following a ceremony to recognize and honor Viet...

Eric Cabrera

Veterans can soon sign up for the largest-ever expansion of VA health benefits

On March 5, vets who served in a combat zone, beginning with the Vietnam war, can directly enroll in VA healthcare.

3 days ago

Liver and kidney transplant patient Luis Campos says he's grateful he had a Spanish-speaking team....

Eric Cabrera

Murray kidney clinic helping the Latino community

MURRAY, Utah — Intermountain Health has taken steps to address healthcare in Latino communities by opening Utah’s first fully Spanish-speaking Kidney Transplant Clinic. The Intermountain Clinica Hispana de Riñon (Hispanic Kidney Clinic), in Murray, aims to provide a space for members of the Latino community navigating the complex kidney transplant process. The clinic has bilingual professionals, […]

3 days ago

utah department of health shown, the department is dealing with a medicaid related outage...

Heather Kelly

Medicaid members in Utah affected by nationwide outage

Utah Medicaid asked local pharmacies to provide a free 30-day supply to high-risk patients affected by the outage.

4 days ago

Marijuana grows at Tryke Companies Utah's medical cannabis cultivation facility in Tooele...

Michael Camit

Ironing out Utah’s Medical Cannabis Program

Medical marijuana is one of Utah's most regulated substances, but lawmakers are still trying to iron out the wrinkles in the program.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Researchers find “clear link” between COVID-19 and heart disease