Cardiologists warn they're seeing increase in heart problems in people catching COVID-19

There are concerns of a surge in COVID-related heart disease following the Omicron outbreak.

Cardiologists and GPs say they're seeing an increase in patients reporting heart problems after catching COVID. And they're urging others not to ignore the warning signs.

Law student Mira Karunanidhi was living her best life until she got COVID.

"I thought it was going to be a mild illness, especially for someone like me. I'm 21, otherwise healthy, fit, I'm triple vaccinated, don't have any underlying health conditions," she told Newshub.

But 10 weeks on from Omicron she's struggling with heart palpitations and fatigue.

"So I get a pounding and racing heart. My heart rate skyrockets to about 150 to 210 beats per minute just from quite minimal activity like walking, doing my hair," she said.

Just making her bed or walking up stairs sends her heart rate shooting up to its maximum, while this time last year she was sprinting up hills and doing half-marathons.

Tairawhiti cardiologist and Heart Foundation medical director Dr Gerry Devlin said he's seeing a number of people with post-COVID heart issues.

"With the increase in Omicron transmission in our communities we are definitely seeing people that are coming to see us with symptoms that have persisted weeks or months after Omicron infects, so yes, the answer is yeah definitely we are," he told Newshub.

A recent US study of more than 150,000 veterans found heart disease risk increased substantially in the year following an infection, even in mild cases. Just how much of an increase there'll be here in the coming months remains uncertain.

"Well, we don't know, but, if we've got more COVID in our community, with more people being infected with COVID, then I think the expectation is that we will see more people with long COVID-type symptoms," Dr Devlin said.

If you've had COVID and are experiencing ongoing palpitations, breathlessness, fatigue or chest pains, the Heart Foundation says don't ignore the warning signs, see your GP.

"If you're getting symptoms like that after you've been diagnosed with COVID, please see your doctor," Dr Devlin said.

"It doesn't matter if it's one week, two weeks, three weeks or further down the line, please engage your health professional."

Karunanidhi has a three-month wait for a special monitor to check her heart rhythms, but she has a warning for others.

"Number one is, don't underestimate COVID," she said.

"Two I would definitely stress the importance of recovery. You need to rest, and rest some more, and rest even more than you think you have to."

Health experts say the best way to avoid long term symptoms is to ensure your vaccines are up to date and continue trying to avoid catching COVID in the first place.