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What Are the Long Term Effects of COVID-19?

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

This topic is very new and we can’t be certain what the long term effects of COVID-19 are.

However, a few interesting studies are researching this topic to get as many clues as possible.

COVID-19 & Lung Damage

According to specialists, Covid-19 pneumonia is different from the most common cases in that it doesn’t respond to antibiotics and it’s more severe. For example, coronavirus pneumonia tends to affect all of the lungs, instead of just small parts [1].

Once we have an infection in the lung, then the body’s response is first to try and destroy the virus and limit its replication [1].

If the immune system isn’t powerful enough in the beginning, it can result in more significant lung damage, as often occurs in older people or those who have health conditions.

In a study of 138 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in China, chest CT scans showed “patchy shadows” or “ground glass dark spots” in the lungs of all patients [2].

Dr. Owen Tsang Tak-yin, of the Infectious Diseases Centre in Hong Kong, says that some patients’ lung function could decline by about 20 to 30% after recovery and result in a difficult time catching their breath if they walk quickly.

His study of 12 patients discharged from hospital showed that two or three had reduced lung function.

While it’s too early to establish long-term effects of the disease, scans of nine patients’ lungs “found patterns similar to frosted glass in all of them, suggesting there was organ damage [even after recovery],” Tsang said.

We don’t know in what percentage of cases the damage is permanent. It could be a very low percentage. What we do know is that lung damage from this coronavirus is more severe than normal pneumonia, which is an area of concern.

COVID-19 Causes Heart Damage

A number of studies and factors related to Coronavirus seem to be pointing to the possibility that COVID-19 may cause heart damage.

One thing we know is that COVID-19 appears to enter human cells by attaching to the ACE2 receptor, which serves as an entry point for the virus and this particular receptor is found in high levels in the heart [3]. So, it makes sense that this may expose the heart to more damage if the virus is existing in higher concentrations.

Additionally, there have been two studies performed by JAMA Cardiology that seem to point to cardiovascular complications caused by Coronavirus.

Most recently, a study of 416 COVID-19 patients in China from JAMA cardiology found that around 20% of patients developed an injury to the heart during hospitalization [3].

In addition, more than half of the patients with cardiac injury experienced in-hospital death in this study, indicating that COVID-19–induced heart damage is associated with a massive increase in the death rate [3].

You might think that the higher death rate would be due to the individuals already having heart problems, but the study concluded that this type of injury was an independent risk factor of dying from COVID-19, even when adjusting for prior cardiovascular diseases, and many other risk factors [3].

However, the researchers did find that many of the people experiencing cardiac injury also had high levels of inflammation and previous cardiovascular issues [3].

Higher levels of inflammation after developing COVID-19 may arise from a poor immune system that lets the viral load increase too much, which is then followed by a cytokine storm.

That means if you have a poor immune system or heart issues, you may be even more susceptible to experiencing heart damage from COVID-19.

An earlier JAMA study on 138 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 that found that 7.2% of patients developed acute cardiac injury, and that patients who were in the ICU were 22% more likely to have cardiac injury than non-ICU patients [2].

It’s interesting to note that cardiovascular complications also occurred in the first SARS virus [4].

If you have a cardiovascular issue, or you believe it runs in your family, I would recommend checking out our Cardiovascular DNA Wellness Report, which gives personalized recommendations based on your genes to improve your cardiovascular system. Once you upload your DNA, you’ll be able to see if you have the genetic variants that put you at a higher risk for cardiovascular issues through your personalized SelfDecode report.

Potential Long Term Effects on Male Fertility

Although it is too early to tell for sure, one area where long term damage might occur is in the male reproductive system.

It’s known that a broad range of virus families – including HIV, mumps, influenza, Zika, and Coxsackie – may induce inflammation of the testicles which can sometimes result in male infertility [5].

Unlike bacterial infections, which usually invade accessory glands, viruses circulating in the blood mainly attack the testes [5].

For coronavirus, they might be an even easier target. Testes seem to have an abundance of ACE2, which is the main receptor that COVID-19 uses to infiltrate our cells, so it can expose them to more damage[5].

The harmful effects of viruses involve the direct damage of sperm cells, abnormal sex-hormone secretion, and inflammation [5].

SARS, a similar virus to COVID-19, has been reported to cause testicular inflammation [5].

One study that compared 81 recovered COVID-19 patients to a healthy control group of 100 people found that the ratio of testosterone to luteinizing hormone (a hormone that helps your reproductive system) was lower [5].

The effect on COVID-19 on male fertility is still unknown, but it’s one of the possible long term effects from the disease.

Why Your Immune Health is Really Important

Multiple studies I’ve read speak about damage or more severe damage occurring when the immune system doesn’t respond well, and viral replication gets out of control. People in the ICU, for example, had higher viral loads [6].

Viral load was also shown to correlate with age, which is in turn associated with low immunity. This could explain the high degree of severe disease in older patients with COVID-19, according to a LANCET study [7].

The high viral load in elderly patients is associated not only with low immunity but also with high levels of the ACE2 receptor in older adults [7]. ACE2 is basically the gateway on a cell where the virus is able to gain entry.

If you haven’t checked out our SelfDecode blog post on the ACE2 gene, you need to do that right now. My results for the ACE2 gene are good, so that’s comforting. If you have risk variants for the gene, we discuss potential ways to counteract the risk.


If your immune system is not up to par, your viral load gets out of control, and heart & lung damage are more likely to occur.

This is why you need to start building up your immune system now and improving your general health, in preparation for the virus, because it’s very likely to be widespread in the population.

I am not waiting to get the virus to improve my immune system. I have been doing my coronavirus regimen since the virus started spreading in large numbers to the west.

The regimen is personalized for me and is meant to improve my immune system, lung health, and cardiovascular health, all 3 areas that need to be strong in preparation for the virus. Check out SelfDecode to discover how you can use your own unique DNA to build a personalized regimen for YOU.

Our proceeds from SelfDecode are being reinvested to help educate everyone about important topics like coronavirus.

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

As a kid, Joe suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, mood and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.

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