2020 is over, but the adverse effects of the COVID-19 virus aren’t. It’s hitting fierce and fast in the United States. CNN reported more than 1 million new cases (reaching a total of 14.5 million cases) being logged in the first five days of December. What’s worse, the numbers continue to grow.
COVID-19 has induced heart/cardiac complications among infected patients, and it is one of the major causes of complications. Health experts suggest that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can trigger an intense immune response throughout the body, and survivors may be at heightened risk of cardiac inflammation.
In a JAMA Cardiology study, they screened cardiac MRIs on 100 people who had recovered from COVID-19 last year. Researchers found abnormalities in the hearts of 78% of recovered patients and ‘ongoing myocardial inflammation in 60%. (Williamson 2020)
The COVID-19 coronavirus attacks the lungs damaging the respiratory system. It, in turn, makes it even more difficult for your heart to function like usual. The heart works overtime to pump oxygenated blood through the body. For people with heart failure and other severe heart conditions, it can lead to a worsening of COVID-19 symptoms, says the CDC.
Who Is at Risk?
Adults of any age group with underlying heart conditions such as high blood pressure, congenital heart defects, heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies are at higher risk of severe illness from the virus.
It is seen that a person with heart disorders is more likely to give in to the effects of unstable blood pressure, fever, blood clotting disorder, and low oxygen levels, all possible outcomes of COVID-19.
In its recent report, the CDC also concluded that people with pre-existing health conditions were six times more likely to be hospitalized and twelve times more likely to die from the COVID-19 coronavirus than others with no underlying health conditions.
Signs & Symptoms of COVID-19 Infection and Heart Problems
The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection start showing within 2-14 days of exposure. The symptoms include sore throat, dry cough, fever or chills, trouble breathing, loss of taste or smell, muscular pain, and gastrointestinal signs like vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea.
Apart from these, heart and stroke symptoms may happen simultaneously as a consequence of a COVID-19 infection. The symptoms include:
- Persistent chest pain or pressure
- Numbness or immobility on any side of the body
- Sudden vision loss
- Extreme headache
- Facial drooping on one side
- Changed or slurred speech
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, especially at night
- Swelling of body parts like arms or legs
- Dizziness, fainting or sudden passing out
Should Heart Patients Stop Taking Medication?
The American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and the Heart Failure Society of America had jointly released a statement urging people to continue their prescribed medication. No evidence has been found to stop these medications for people who develop COVID-19 symptoms.
When to Seek Medical Attention
The first step is to reach out to your primary healthcare provider if you face concerns with your underlying heart conditions and have COVID-19. In case your symptoms feel out of control, and you need emergency help, call 911 immediately.
It’s vital to get medical attention care quickly as it improves the chances of survival. Emergency departments have contingency infection prevention plans to protect you from getting COVID-19 if you need care.
Steps Taken While You Are at Home
Even when you are home, be vigilant with your family members who have pre-existing heart conditions. Continue taking precautions like regular handwashing, maintain distance whenever possible, wear a mask if an outsider visits, and disinfect all surfaces regularly.
If you live alone and find yourself in need of help, it’s a good idea to put together a list of reliable contacts you can dial in an emergency, such as close relatives, friends, neighbors, or colleagues. Keep this contact list handy, within easy reach.
Maintain a log of your prescribed medication. The CDC advises keeping a stock of your regular medicines for at least 15 days. Continue taking your medicines and do not stop or alter your treatment plan without consulting your healthcare provider.
As we quarantine when necessary, ensure that you have more stock of prescriptions on-hand, perhaps ask for 90-day protocol and refills that can be easily arranged by your pharmacy. Just about everyone delivers today. Ask your pharmacist for details on delivering your prescriptions.
Take Care of Your Heart Health and Well Being!
People who adopt a healthy lifestyle like eating home cooked meals, low to no alcohol, exercising often, stay connected with friends and family, and avoid stress have strengthened their immune system. It reduces both the chances of COVID-19 infection and the long-term risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Williamson, Laura. What COVID-19 Is Doing to the Heart, Even after Recovery. 3 Sept. 2020, www.heart.org/en/news/2020/09/03/what-covid-19-is-doing-to-the-heart-even-after-recovery.