It’s been two months and the death toll due to Coronavirus has reached 3,830. Around 110,071 cases have been brought to attention and only 62,280 people have recovered. It is suspected that the number of cases is much higher as there has been underutilization of testing in many countries.
In all this chaos, one thing that you should really be concerned about is how COVID-19 affects you if you have existing cardiovascular health problems. First, let’s have a look at a few basic facts about Coronavirus:
Coronavirus is a family of different viruses that cause numerous illnesses ranging from a simple flu to more severe health problems such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).
In order to understand why people with cardiovascular health problems are more at risk from Coronavirus, you first need know how it is transmitted.
Coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, which is caused by parasites or bacteria that are spread from animals to humans. An initial investigation led by scientists to find out the origin of COVID-19 revealed that it had indeed spread through a seafood supermarket, whereas rumors abound that the virus came from a bat in Wuhan. While the exact source of the virus hasn’t yet been found, a tentative one has led scientists to believe that the disease might have spread through pangolins. Other contenders include camel and civet cats.
There’s little information available on how the Coronavirus is transmitted. However, since it affects the respiratory system, scientists believe that it is contracted through droplets that enter the air or are present on any surface. These droplets can spread by:
Now that you are familiar with how Coronavirus is transmitted and what health problems it causes, let’s have a closer look at how COVID-19 affects heart patients:
Heart failure patients and those with coronary artery disease are at risk of exacerbation or acute events from any kind of respiratory infections. Since Coronavirus primarily affects the respiratory system, a heart patient’s health deteriorates in three stages:
Stage 1: Severe inflammatory responses due to the infection
Stage 2: Myocardial depression (decreased blood flow on the left and right side of the heart), which may lead to heart failure
Stage 3: Risk of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat pattern)
Coronavirus and influenza have almost the same side effects and affect heart patients in a similar pattern. This is why scientists recommend cardiovascular patients to take the same precautions that they would take if they had influenza. In older adults, the risk is higher and the symptoms are different. In most cases, it starts with a mild fever. However, in older patients (above 60), one should pay attention to symptoms such as shortness of breath and cough.
According to a report by the American College of Cardiology, 40% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 have cerebrovascular or cardiovascular disease. The report also revealed that the longer the patients were treated, the more they developed health problems, which included acute respiratory distress syndrome, arrhythmia, acute cardiac injury, acute kidney injury, and shock. The first patient who died due to Coronavirus was a male (61 years old). He had a history of smoking and succumbed to heart failure, acute respiratory distress, and cardiac arrest.
All this does not mean that patients with heart problems are more at risk of attracting the virus. It means that once they do get infected, they will encounter severe complications during the treatment. Since the heart needs oxygenated blood to remain stable, a compromised set of lungs will put too much pressure on the body to get the heart pumping. As result, other organs will start to fail and this may lead to death.
Heart patients have a weak immune system. This makes them vulnerable to a host of health problems. Since Coronavirus attacks the immune system too, it becomes difficult for the body to fight the spread of bacteria.
If a patient has clogged arteries due to fatty buildup, they are more likely to die from a heart attack. This plaque may get destabilized and transfer to arteries that directly supply blood to the heart. When the clog transfers and block vital arteries, chances of heart attacks increase. As mentioned earlier, heart patients are not at the top of the list of targets of the new Coronavirus but the spread of the disease is much faster in these people.
So, how can heart patients protect themselves from Coronavirus?
Avoiding Coronavirus is the same as avoiding a flu or cold. You can defend yourself from it by washing hands, avoiding travel to places with outbreaks, and not touching dirty surfaces.
As of yet, no vaccine has been developed for curing Coronavirus. Currently, the US is conducting trials and recruiting volunteers to find out if the vaccine they have developed is effective or not. In the mean time, heart patients can take the following precautions to stay safe:
And this is how Coronavirus affects cardiac patients. If you have any cardiovascular problem, visit Keystone Cardiovascular Center and contact Dr. Panagiotou. Call 201-882-6088 to know more about our services or book an online appointment now.