LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — A Lafayette cardiovascular surgeon is setting the record straight over fears of heart problems related to COVID-19 vaccines.

Does taking the COVID vaccine have an effect on your heart? It’s possible, but there’s a far greater risk to your heart than the COVID vaccine — actually getting COVID itself.

Lafayette Cardiovascular Surgeon Dr. Antoine Keller told News 10 that you’re actually at a higher risk of catching COVID-19 after taking the vaccine than you are from getting heart-related issues from the shot. In fact, he says taking the vaccine could save you from long-term cardiovascular disease.

“Even if you only have mild COVID symptoms when you become infected, you can have cardiovascular risk that is increased over not having had COVID,” said Keller.

Keller said catching COVID increases your chance for stroke by 52% in the 12 months after they’ve become infected than someone who was not infected. He also said people who catch COVID face 72% greater chance of having heart-related issues, including heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and heart attacks.

Keller said studies show people who are already experiencing heart disease are more likely to have severe COVID cases, though he also noted that if you don’t already have heart disease symptoms, COVID could bring on heart problems all on its own. Keller said that’s why the vaccine is so important.

“Sometimes you can have elevated levels when you have a heart attack, but the data with COVID shows that you don’t necessarily have to have a heart attack to have those increased levels in your blood,’ said Keller. “But there is a sign that there is inflammation in your heart.”

That inflammation is called COVID Myocarditis and COVID Pericarditis.

“You can imagine that all of this inflammation will leave scarring and damage long after the infection is gone.”

Dr. Keller says he wants to promote overall cardiovascular wellness. He advises you to get vaccinated and stop doing things that do not ensure a healthy heart like smoking, unhealthy eating, and lack of exercise.