The elderly and people with existing respiratory ailments have been highly susceptible, but the new coronavirus is also a problem for people with severe heart disease.
We talked with Dr. Sreenivas Gudimetla, a cardiologist with Texas Heath Fort Worth and Texas Health Physicians Group.
About the impact on heart disease patients:
- In a lot of patients with respiratory diseases and the elderly, heart disease has a much higher prevalence. In COVID-19 or coronavirus patients, around 17% develop serious arrhythmias, and a little over 7% have an injury to their heart muscle.
- Coronavirus patients are more susceptible to developing heart failure and inflammation of the heart muscle.
- When somebody is infected and ill, the workload of the heart increases because there's more demand on the body for nutrients from blood flow.
Does the virus actually damage the heart, or is the virus just too much for a weak heart to bear? Actually, both. The virus can cause direct injury to the heart, just like any other organ in the body. But if you already have heart disease and a weak heart, having an infection can cause the heart workload to increase, which makes the risk of heart failure go up and causes more complications.
On COVID-19 and severe inflammation: It is an inflammatory illness, and inflammation can occur in the heart just like any other organ in the body. We have to be very observant about that and be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Precautions to take against COVID-19:
- Remain current with vaccinations. The most common type of secondary pneumonia is pneumococcal pneumonia. So once every few years, get vaccinated against that as well as be vaccinated against influenza.
- Utilize telehealth visits. In areas with really active coronavirus outbreaks, we should work on substituting telehealth visits instead of in-person routine visits for stable cardiovascular patients, to avoid those patients at risk of acquiring the infection.
- Manage other cardiac risk factors, including diabetes. Also, monitor your kidney function because all of these things can add up to an increased risk of events and death in cardiovascular patients.