COVID-19 infection is caused by a novel corona virus which was discovered in 2019. The first case was reported in China, but now it has spread all over the world with around half million cases reported in India. Interestingly it belongs to the same family of viruses which causes benign diseases like ‘common cold’. The most common manifestations are fever, cough, breathlessness, headache and loss of taste. In majority of patients it presents with mild fever and lasts a few days. However, in a few patients it can lead to complications and even death. As of now there are no vaccinations to prevent this infection, trials are underway and maybe we will have a vaccine by the year end. Once a person is infected, there are medications which aid in recovery but we do not have a cure. Therefore, it becomes very important to prevent from acquiring the infection by taking adequate precautions and also to identify patients who are at high risk for developing complications from COVID -19.
Patients who are older, smokers, obese, diabetic or already have heart, lung or kidney problems are at a higher risk. Heart patients are especially at a higher risk as most of them are elderly and have other co-morbid conditions. In addition, COVID-19 infection itself can also lead to heart attacks, heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias. In fact some of the medications given to treat COVID-19 infection can also precipitate fatal cardiac arrhythmias.
Steps to be taken by heart patients in COVID-19 pandemic.
- Maintaining social distancing, regularly washing hands and wearing a mask whenever going out of your house.
- Do not stop your heart, blood pressure and diabetes medications. In fact if you keep your blood pressure and diabetes in check, complications from COVID-19 infection can be minimized.
- Do not stop your regular exercise regimes, as it is good for your heart but maintain social distancing while you exercise.
- Keep a positive attitude; avoid negative messages on social media and news channels.
- Keep yourself busy; cultivate a hobby in your leisure time.
- Socialize with friends/ relatives over phone, whatsapp and Skype.
- Avoid unnecessary travel and avoid crowded places.
- Eat lots of fruits, vegetables to build your immunity, taking multi- vitamin tablets is not that helpful .
- Work from home is advised to reduce risk of exposure.
- Be vigilant and if you develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 infection, consult your doctor.
In nutshell, prevention is better than cure and this is all the more important for heart patients as they are at a higher risk of complications. Even if a heart patient develops COVID-19 infection, he should not be disheartened as most will recover without any complications.