Covid raises risk for high cholesterol

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Covid raises risk for high cholesterol

Two recent studies suggest that covid may increase the risk for high cholesterol for up to a year after infection, prompting some doctors to take a closer look at the apparent trend.

According to Dr. Ashish Sarraju, a cardiologist with the Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation section at the Cleveland Clinic, it is something that we need to pay more attention to. One study, published earlier this month in The Lancet Diabetes Endocrinology, found that people with prior Covid infection had a 24% increased risk for high cholesterol levels.

These are people who had never had problems with cholesterol before, said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis. They started having problems weeks and months after Covid - 19 all of a sudden. He looked at the new diagnoses of high cholesterol among 51, 919 people who had Covid from March 2020 to January 2021, the period before vaccines were widely available. Patients who had sought care within the Department of Veterans Affairs were among the participants. The majority of white men were in their early 60s.

The patients who had Covid were more likely to have high levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad kind of cholesterol, up to a year later, compared to 2.6 million people who did not have Covid during the same time frame. They were more likely to have lower levels of good HDL cholesterol.

A second study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases in late December, had similar findings, though in a much younger group of people.

In Switzerland, researchers compared the cholesterol levels of 177 members of the Swiss military who had Covid in 2020 with 251 others who had not been infected. The average age of the participants was 21.

Professor Patricia Schlagenhauf, a professor in the department of global and public health at the University of Zurich, said the group Covid ended up with higher cholesterol levels. They also had higher body mass indexes after Covid.

She said that these young people have a significantly higher cholesterol, higher LDL and higher BMI, and that they have a metabolic disorder.

Sarraju, of the Cleveland Clinic, made similar observations.

He said that patients who had had Covid come in with elevated BMI or metabolic issues.

Why can't a respiratory virus like Covid lead to high cholesterol? Ongoing inflammation could play a role. The participants in these studies were ill during the first wave of Covid cases, when people were mostly staying at home.

There were changes in behavior, including diet and lack of exercise, that could be a factor in the higher cholesterol levels, said Glenn Hirsch, chief cardiology at National Jewish Health in Denver. He said his team has seen increases in the risk for many conditions following Covid, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.

Sarraju said it seems like this is something that should be tracked closer.

More than 101 million cases of Covid had been reported in the United States since the beginning of the epidemic.