It is estimated that the COVID-19 has killed almost 1.14 million people across the globe. And ever since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic, it became quite clear among people that the virus has the capacity of reacting differently to a different subset of patients.
For instance, we all know that the coronavirus is relatively mild and self-limiting on younger individuals. But when we talk about the older adults, the coronavirus seems to have a rather sinister approach.
Although the virus has life-threatening effects on the lungs of the patient, recent studies conducted at the JAMA cardiology says that the virus may cause heart issues even to the people who have no history of heart problems. So, that means people who already have heart ailments have more to worry about with the pandemic.
It’s not just COVID-19, but other viruses too
Yes, we know that this sentence is scary on its own. But unfortunately, it is true. It is claimed that not just the COVID-19 but even influenza and SARS can deteriorate the existing heart ailment and lead to heart problems in healthy people.
Many doctors have studied the pattern of deaths during the flu epidemics, and every time there were more deaths due to heart problems than respiratory issues.
Doctors have even claimed that the difference, from respiratory problems to heart issues, is seen during a later stage after a person is diagnosed with a virus. For instance, the problem in healthy people usually starts with a respiratory problem, which then eventually graduates into the cardiac issue.
As per the research conducted at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), it was found that almost 10.5% of COVID-19 affected deaths between Dec 30th to Feb 11th were due to heart disease.
How is the virus damaging people’s hearts?
There are many ways in which viruses like SARS-CoV-2 or even flu can prove deadly for a healthy human.
Let’s take a look at three common reasons for this progression.
- Co-infection: an infection caused due to two different germs
- Respiratory failure: when the lungs deteriorate due to the infection
- Cytokine storm: when the immune system gets overwhelmed because of infection
The human body uses cytokine, a type of protein, to control a plethora of biological functions. Two of these functions are inflammation and repair. The inflammatory response of the cytokines has the capacity to damage one’s heart due to the heart failure mechanism.
And when this procedure happens in the human body, the person can suffer from a fatal condition known as “myocarditis.” This condition basically causes heart muscle inflammation, leading to weak pumping function, also known as systolic heart failure or heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF).
Higher risks for people with an existing heart ailment
The study conducted at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) concluded that the death rate of COVID-19 affected people who already had the heart ailment was 10.5%. Another research conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated a 0.4% death risk for the general population. This ratio was quite similar to what China and Italy had mentioned.
The main reason why people with a heart condition are at greater risk of COVID-19 is because of their weaker immune system. The weaker immune system doesn’t have the ability to fight against infections.
Cardiologists also worry that the COVID-19 can harm the cardiovascular system of the people who suffer from heart failure, heart disease, and even high blood pressure. And some people with COVID-19 infection can develop the symptoms of a heart condition.
Fortunately, there are various things that you can do to ensure you stay healthy during the pandemic. The first is to consult a cardiologist and follow a healthy routine.
The risk of heart failure, medication can worsen the symptoms
Around May, research printed in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine concluded that almost 24% of the total COVID-19 patients experienced acute heart failure after initial detection of the virus.
But it was unclear if the heart failure was due to COVID-19 or if the virus had aggravated the undetected heart issue. Many researchers have also said that the possibility of heart failure is the drug used for medication.
Well, then we need to remember that there is no particular drug that is effective on the coronavirus infection yet. But, the few drugs like hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin that went viral on social media than in the lab has the potential to worsen the heart ailment.
Hydroxychloroquine can interact with the heart rhythm regulating medications. This means the possibility of heart damage or declining cardiomyopathy is high. Similarly, azithromycin can lead to prolongation of QT intervals leading to fatal electrical abnormalities on the ECG.
So, staying away from these drugs unless prescribed, is highly recommended.
How to aid people with heart disease or take self-care amid COVID-19?
We have time and again heard that older adults are more vulnerable to the virus, which, for a fact, is true. But, everyone is in danger when it comes to COVID-19, especially those who have a history of heart ailment or hypertension. So, cardiac patients must take extra care during these unprecedented times.
- Ensure that you follow your doctor’s advice and take the prescription medicine on time as directed
- Reduce alcohol or caffeine intake
- Avoid OTC medicines like ibuprofen or decongestants as they can hamper your blood pressure.
- Monitor the blood pressure at home
- Go for walks (of course, by following safety instructions) or spend time in high-intensity interval training. Do not go overboard with the routine.
- Choose to eat healthy, homemade food, and sleep well.
Well, it is quite clear from the blog that COVID-19 is not just a threat to your lungs but even to your heart.
People with existing heart ailments are at a higher risk, and so are the small number of people with no heart condition at all. So, it is vital that you take better care of yourself and the loved ones. Make sure to follow the guidelines put up by the municipality; after all, prevention is always better than cure.