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Heart Disease And COVID-19: Higher Risk Requires Extra Precaution

High blood pressure puts patients at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, especially those over 60.
High blood pressure puts patients at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, especially those over 60. Photo Credit: CareMount Medical

If you have a pre-existing heart disease and become ill with COVID-19, you are at a higher risk for a heart attack or developing congestive heart failure. This is likely due to a combination of the severity of the viral illness and its increased demands on the heart (fever causes rapid heart rate, for example), compounded by low oxygen levels and an increased likelihood for blood clot formation. In addition to the increase in these heart problems, a more unusual condition called myocarditis where the virus infects the heart muscle directly, has also been observed in COVID-19 patients.

If you have high blood pressure

You face a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, especially if you are age 60+, if your blood pressure is high, which makes it imperative that you use extreme caution during your daily life and avoid exposure to the virus.

What you should do

  • Avoid people who are sick or who have been exposed to the virus.
  • Avoid close contact with children 18 and under, because although children rarely develop serious illness from COVID-19, they may be asymptomatic carriers who can transmit disease to vulnerable family members.
  • Clean your hands often using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose.
  • Wear a face mask when you leave your home.
  • Avoid touching surfaces in public—use a tissue, glove or sleeve to touch them if necessary.
  • Stay up to date on the flu and pneumonia vaccines, because any illness can weaken the body’s ability to fight off COVID-19.

In addition, continue taking all your medications as prescribed, including ACE inhibitors and ARBs.  These medications do not increase your risk of contracting COVID-19. There was a controversial report saying that these drugs might make people more susceptible to COVID-19, but there is no evidence that this is true. In fact, the American Heart Association and other major associations recommend their use. High blood pressure patients and diabetes patients should both keep in mind that your overall medical condition is much better if your blood pressure and diabetes are under control.

If symptoms appear

If you have heart problems and notice any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing) call your provider as soon as possible. At CareMount Medical, we are seeing patients in the office and using virtual visits so patients can see their own personal, trusted providers online. After a virtual visit, your provider can decide if you need to come in for an appointment based on your symptoms, medical history and needs. If you are scheduled for a routine exam or any in-office medical testing, it is necessary to continue with your appointment without delay.

Emergency warning signs

If you develop any of these emergency warning signs, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Take stock of your medications

Make sure you have enough medication for an extended time, not because your pharmacy will have a short supply of your prescription, but more so, in case you are sick, quarantined or are unable to go out in public. Health plans generally enforce refill restrictions, but your CareMount provider is able to make adjustments based on your medical needs given the current situation.

If you need a new prescription, a refill for an existing, essential medication, or need to adjust your dosage, speak with your CareMount provider online through a virtual visit. To schedule a virtual visit, click here.

Most of all, continue to stay active; exercise outdoors if possible; eat nutritious, heart-healthy meals; keep your stress level low; and stay connected with family and friends. Feelings of isolation can take a toll on your overall health and well-being. Stay focused on good heart health practices!

To schedule an in-person visit with your CareMount provider, click here.

Sources: American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Heart Federation

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