Heart Health During a Pandemic

By  0 Comments

Jodee had been managing heart disease for several years, and as COVID-19 spread in early 2020, she was particularly mindful of her health. In late fall, she had a heart issue and had to go to the emergency room by ambulance. She was concerned about going into a hospital, but she knew her situation was serious.

Jodee’s doctor said she would have died that day if she hadn’t received treatment in the emergency room. Much of the essential advice from experts remains the same: Take the coronavirus seriously and do all you can to avoid catching it. Those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease are at higher risk, so getting the proper care in a timely matter is crucial.

In June 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data stating that COVID-19 patients with underlying conditions such as cardiovascular disease are six times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die than patients without any chronic health issues. About one in three people with COVID-19 have cardiovascular disease, making it one of the most common underlying health conditions. Persons with serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies, have a more difficult time with COVID-19 or any other disease because they have weaker immune systems, making it more difficult for them to fight off the infection.

In November 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with the American Medical Association that even among asymptomatic COVID patients, about 60 percent have some indication of inflammation of the heart. Even after patients have recovered from COVID, a growing number of studies suggest many survivors experience some type of heart damage, even if they didn’t have underlying heart disease and weren’t sick enough to be hospitalized. This has health care experts worried about potential heart problems for these survivors in the future.

We may feel fine, but may not realize we have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which contribute to an over-worked heart. During a pandemic, we may not pay as much attention to our bodies as we did previously. But this is the time to know our health history, keep tabs on any high numbers and monitor all factors with our doctors. Regular well visits and screenings can identify risk factors and give us a baseline to create a prevention plan.

In this stressful time, a person’s habits can change. It’s a good idea to keep regular appointments and discuss with your primary care doctor or cardiologist any weight or diet changes, sleep issues and illness, including depression. They’ll want to know how home monitoring of chronic conditions is going as well. Other methods for managing heart conditions include taking prescriptions as directed; eating healthy, clean foods; quitting smoking or vaping and limiting alcohol or caffeine. Take precautions to reduce the chances of getting COVID-19, including regular handwashing, mask wearing and following physical distancing guidelines. Avoid over-the-counter medicines that could interfere with your blood pressure, including decongestants or ibuprofen. Exercise, making sure to get out of the comfort zone, so your heart feels the benefits

It’s a crazy world, and the unknowns can wreak havoc on our otherwise happy lives. Being worried and overwhelmed can be part of the pandemic process, but there is help. Experts recommend connecting with survivors and caregivers through a local heart organization or online. Knowing you’re not alone can be a huge help for everyday living. The bottom line, as we have heard constantly during this pandemic, is that much is still unknown. Additional studies and research are needed, but diligence can make all the difference. The American Heart Association stresses, Don’t Die of Doubt™. Get help early and as often as needed. ■

Sources: providence.org, heart.org and ama-assn.org.

Although we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, people still have heart attacks and strokes. Unfortunately, some are scared to go to the ER or are concerned about burdening their local hospital. But experts stress to not let fear stop us from getting the help we need. Knowing when to take someone to an emergency room or calling 911 can save a life. Basic symptoms of heart attack are fairly easy to spot.
– Chest or back pain: Discomfort or a feeling of squeezing or pressure, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back.
– A rise in blood pressure: If you have a cuff, monitor for 120/80 or above
– Numbness or weakness: Feeling extremely tired and not being able to complete a simple everyday task may be a sign of heart attack.
– Loss of vision
– Difficulty breathing or speaking: Heart attack sufferers can have trouble breathing for no apparent reason.
– Nausea and sweating