Coronavirus and Heart Health: What Cardiac Patients Should Know
As more information from medical experts has surfaced on coronavirus (COVID-19) risk factors, it’s clear that heart-related conditions are some of them. This includes cardiovascular disease, valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, and hypertension. These are in addition to other common risk factors—advanced age, obesity and diabetes. Heart conditions may compromise the immune system to some degree, and make cardiac involvement more likely with COVID-19. This partially explains the increased risk. The fact remains, however, that people with heart problems need to take extra precautions to stay safe during this pandemic.
“Cardiac patients seem to be more susceptible to COVID-19 infection and experience more severe symptoms,” said Bayhealth Cardiologist Roberto Scaffidi, MD. “It’s also been shown that COVID-19 can have both direct and indirect effects on the cardiovascular system.” Some of the possible effects are:
- Inflammation of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis
- Increased tendency for blood clots which may lead to reduced blood supply or blockages within the small arteries in the heart
- Systemic inflammation in response to the infection can cause plaques to destabilize and rupture, leading to a heart attack
- Secondary injury to the heart due to low oxygen levels, low blood pressure or shock to the body
For all of these reasons, anyone with a heart problem should be aware that they are at elevated coronavirus risk above the general population and be extremely careful to avoid exposure. “Although everyone needs to follow the guidelines (hand washing, not touching their face, sneezing or coughing into the crook of the elbow, social distancing, and wearing a mask), it’s even more vital for patients with heart conditions to follow these guidelines to the letter,” said Dr. Scaffidi. He suggests wearing a mask or face covering whenever out in public; minimizing trips outside the home to necessary visits to the doctor, pharmacy or the supermarket at off peak hours; and if ordering food, sticking with contactless delivery.
It’s also important for cardiac patients to maintain a heart-healthy diet and try to stay as active as possible while socially isolating. “Use common sense—if you don’t think you should be doing something, don’t do it or at least run it by your doctor first.”
Visit Bayhealth.org/Cardiovascular to learn more about Bayhealth heart and vascular services, or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS (229-3627) to be matched with a cardiologist. As always, the Emergency Departments at Bayhealth, Kent and Sussex Campuses and Bayhealth Emergency Center, Smyrna are operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They have additional measures in place to safely treat all non-COVID-19 related emergencies as needed, including urgent cardiac care.