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Stay Safe with a Heart Condition During COVID-19

Stay Safe with a Heart Condition During COVID-19

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that death rates from heart disease rose by nearly 400 percent in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak (March-April 2020).

Did you know people with heart disease have a higher risk of complications from COVID-19? While they’re not more likely to get the virus, people with heart conditions like heart disease and atrial fibrillation are more likely to have worse outcomes from COVID-19 infection than those without a heart condition.

The virus triggers a severe inflammatory response throughout the body, and inflammation is one of the biggest causes of heart attacks. Viruses such as COVID-19 can cause arrhythmias. Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, may occur in people with severe COVID-19 illness when the virus enters the heart. COVID-19 can also increase blood clots, which can be deadly. Older people with heart conditions may have even weaker immune systems, which puts them at an even higher risk.

If you have heart disease or any other heart condition, it’s especially important to try to stay healthy and avoid getting COVID-19. Consider these 10 tips for protecting your heart during COVID-19.

  1. Get vaccinated. Especially if you have a history of heart disease and other cardiovascular risk factors, get vaccinated as soon as possible—or boosted if you’re already vaxxed—to lower your risk of severe infection and hospitalization.
  2. Continue to wear your mask in public spaces and follow all CDC-recommended COVID-19 guidelines. Do everything possible to avoid exposure to COVID-19.
  3. Always take your medications. There’s a misconception that certain blood pressure or heart failure medications cause more severe COVID-19 symptoms. This is not true. Stopping your medication could be deadly. Keep taking your medications as directed and always check with your doctor before making any changes to your heart treatment.
  4. Do not delay care. One thing we learned during COVID-19 was how many people put off lifechanging procedures for fear of the virus. It’s safe to visit your doctor for routine follow-up care, as long as you’re feeling well and have no symptoms of COVID-19. Virtual visits are another option in some instances.
  5. Watch for emergency warning signs. In addition to monitoring signs of COVID-19 infection, call 911 immediately if you have any of signs or symptoms of heart trouble:
    • Arm weakness or numbness on one side of the body
    • Chest pain or pressure, especially during physical activity
    • Dizziness
    • Facial drooping on one side of the face
    • Fainting
    • Leg swelling
    • Loss of vision
    • Passing out
    • Severe headache
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing at night
    • Speech changes, including slurred or garbled speech
  6. Do not take unauthorized medications to treat COVID-19. While the FDA authorized emergency hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, to treat COVID-19, for example, there are health risks associated with this and the antibiotic azithromycin, or Z-Pak. Both pose a serious threat to people with existing heart disease. These risks include irregular heartbeat, life-threateningly high heart rate, and sudden death.
  7. Only trust credible health sources. Do not get your health news or guidance from social media and other unreliable sources. Reference the Frederick Health blog, the American Heart Association, CDC, World Health Organization, and FDA for guidance for your heart health.
  8. Maintain heart-healthy habits. Diet and exercise are key to heart health. If you don’t eat a heart-healthy diet full of healthy fats, plenty of fruits and veggies, and whole grains, you could put your heart at greater risk for more complications. Exercise makes your heart stronger and helps to pump more blood throughout the body, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and more.
  9. Get routine heart health screenings. They’re the best way to detect and treat problems as soon as possible. Depending on your family’s health history, lifestyle, and other risk factors, your doctor may recommend certain tests and screenings to help you take control of your heart health.
  10. Always be prepared, in case of an emergency. Your health can change quickly. It’s always a good idea to keep at least a two-week supply of your medications at all times, save emergency numbers in your phone, work with your doctor to manage your risk factors, and consider a wearable medical alert device, especially if you live alone.

Every minute counts when it comes to the health of your heart, and that remains true during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t hesitate to get award-winning heart care when you need it. We’re right here.