What are the dangers for heart patients in relation to COVID-19?
Everyone with a heart condition or who previously had a heart condition may just be a little bit rattled when they hear, Corona!. Every time I hear that “people with a heart condition are at risk” I have many questions. I’m not afraid but I am cautious to find out what that means for me as a “heart patient”.
I know I have to be wise and sanitize, but is there more that I have to know?
So this is what I found.
What do the experts mean when they say “people with a heart condition are at risk”? Does the coronavirus “attack” the heart? Maybe attack the heart vessels? Or something like this? I don’t think so and I did some google digging.
Now that is a very broad category.
It includes…..are you ready for it: Congenital heart disease(I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot), Arrhythmia (I have had a few problems with Atrial Fibrillation also called AF, AFIB or A-fib), Coronary artery disease, Dilated cardiomyopathy, Myocardial infarction, Heart failure, Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Mitral regurgitation, Mitral valve prolapse, Pulmonary stenosis, and many other conditions too.
Are all people with these conditions at risk? Not to mention all the other conditions I did not mention?
According to Orly Vardeny, associate professor of medicine at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and the University of Minnesota, who was quoted on heart.org.
The virus could affect heart disease patients in several ways.
The virus’s main target is the lungs. But that could affect the heart, especially a diseased heart, which has to work harder to get oxygenated blood throughout the body
If the heart is already having problems pumping blood through the body, the strain of infected COVID-19 lungs would make the heart have to work so much harder.
Someone with an underlying heart issue also might have a less robust immune system.
The reason is that with age the immune system weakens and the other reason is that many times if a person has a chronic medical condition the immune response is not as strong as it could be.
There is evidence that similar viral infections destabilize plaques in arteries. As Vardeny explains:
potentially resulting in the blockage of an artery feeding blood to the heart, putting patients at risk of heart attack.
Because COVID -19 is so new we cannot prove this above statement now, but it was seen in similar viral infections. Information on and about the COVID -19 virus is changing and updated nearly hourly but experience with previous viruses like SARS and MERS have shown the following:
They were linked to problems such as inflammation of the heart muscle, heart attack and rapid-onset heart failure.
And talking about other types of flu.
COVID-19 also has similarities to influenza
We don’t think the actual risk is any higher per se. It’s just that the spread is quicker
So maybe it’s a bit of good news that the actual risk of COVID -19 may be the same as influenza, and not worse, but the bad news is that it spreads so fast.
According to a review published in JAMA Cardiology on 27 March 2020 by experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) the following was mentioned.
Overall, injury to heart muscle can happen in any patient with or without heart disease, but the risk is higher in those who already have heart disease.
The review further went on to say.
research from previous coronavirus and influenza epidemics suggest that viral infections can cause acute coronary syndromes, arrhythmias, and the development of, or exacerbation of, heart failure.
Data also points to a greater likelihood that individuals over the age of 65 with coronary heart disease or hypertension can contract the illness, as well experience more severe symptoms that will require critical care.
The lead author of the review Dr. Mohammad Madjid, also pointed out that:
In my experience, I realized that more people actually die of heart disease rather than pneumonia, so that [the study findings] was not a surprise for me — that from China, that myocardial injuries are very much related to death in these patients,” Madjid said
According to Dr. Brian Kolski, an interventional cardiologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, the California COVID -19 presents mostly as a respiratory disease, at the early stages, and then only later shows itself as a cardiac matter.
Although COVID 19 is usually identified as a threat to the lungs, because of the flu and influenza-like symptoms it is also a threat to heart health, according to recent studies mentioned in healthline.com.
In an editorial article by Pablo Perel and Diederick E. Grobbee in the Global Heart Journal published 24 March 2020 the authors discussed “The heart in the time of the coronavirus”
The article mentioned that there has also been an “epidemic” of information, data, opinion, social media and may I add some myths, fake news and sometimes also just plain “news” with the aim to scare people.
The article further stated:
As of March 16th, there are 1,766 papers on the WHO database on Global Research on COVID-19 published in 2020, which means an average of 23 papers per day
And also talking about information overload:
Only on March 11th there were 19 million mentions to COVID-19 in social media
Information about this virus is still scattered and most of the studies were small studies and the timeframe of the studies has not been long. This leads to the following comment in the above-mentioned article:
Also, some small studies have shown that patients with cardiovascular disease are at a higher risk of complications, such as myocarditis and myocardial infarction, but what are the most frequent cardiovascular complications and which are the patients with cardiovascular disease at a higher risk remain unknown
So information on what type of other heart conditions are at risk is still not 100% certain but as mentioned above Myocarditis and myocardial infarction patients do show a higher risk.
We as “heart patients” definitely have to be more careful. More strain on your lungs equates to more strain on your heart, and that is not good for heart patients.
Finally, an article in Heart Matters Magazine mentioned two groups of people that are “extremely vulnerable”.
- People that have had a transplant, including a heart transplant and
- Women that are pregnant and also have significant heart disease, as defined by experts which include:
Coronary heart disease (if you have symptoms), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (if it affects your heart function), thickening of the heart muscle (left ventricular hypertrophy) caused by high blood pressure, pulmonary arterial hypertension, a narrowed or leaking heart valve if this is moderate or severe, heart failure that affects your left ventricular function, significant congenital heart disease.
I am not a Doctor or health professional and am only speaking out of my own experience and research. Please ask your own doctor, caregiver or health professional about how to deal with heart disease and the Coronavirus, also know as COVID-19.
If this was helpful please let me know, and leave a comment.