Coronavirus can do alarming damage to heart
April 16, 2020 06:52 PM
New research has determined that the novel coronavirus can do alarming damage to the heart. According to a study published in March in JAMA Cardiology, 1 in 5 patients with COVID-19 experienced heart damage.
People already diagnosed and suffering from heart disease have increased concerns about their risk, in light of the current health crisis.
David Wohns, MD, a cardiology specialist at Spectrum Health, has answered several of the most commonly asked questions.
He said we know COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness that spreads from person-to-person in a highly contagious manner and impacts individuals in different ways. For people with underlying heart conditions, the infection can be more serious with a greater chance of hospitalization and even death. This is especially true for those over 65 with coronary disease or hypertension. These individuals are both more likely to become infected and more likely to develop severe symptoms.
While we know everyone needs to follow precautions during this pandemic, it is especially important for these individuals to strictly follow recommendations for social distancing, hand washing, staying at home and avoiding gatherings. They should also seek medical treatment immediately when experiencing concerning symptoms such as shortness of breath.
The basic guidelines are the foundation of prevention. Patients with cardiovascular disease should make sure they are current with available vaccinations, including the pneumococcal vaccine. We agree with the CDC which recommends wearing cloth face coverings in any public setting. This includes all outings, whether to the grocery store or the pharmacy.
We are very worried people are staying home or not seeking attention for a variety of reasons. It may be that people are concerned about going to the hospital. However, not getting prompt, proper treatment can result in long term consequences or even death.
One of the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19 is shortness of breath, which is also a symptom of heart disease. My recommendation is that any person with prior heart disease or at risk of heart disease who is experiencing chest symptoms or shortness of breath to reach out to their primary care physician or cardiovascular provider for guidance as soon as possible.
The risk to patients avoiding or delaying potential treatment for heart issues can be significant and even life-threatening. The risk of delayed treatment for a heart attack is the most serious. Heart attacks are life-threatening events and early treatment with stents not only saves lives but reduces the amount of permanent damage to the heart.
We have a saying that "time is muscle" when it comes to early treatment of heart attacks. We want to ensure our patients in this COVID-19 period do not misinterpret heart symptoms as something else. If you have any questions, I strongly urge you to call your primary care physician or heart specialist right away.