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Cardiovascular disease & Covid FAQs answered: Can coronavirus affect the pacemaker? Are heart patients vulnerable?

Heart patients must consult with their doctor before visiting the hospital.

Last Updated: May 01, 2020, 05.35 PM IST
In case of worsening chest pain during exercise or while resting, shortness of breath, palpitations or fainting, consult your doctor.
By Dr Balbir Singh

There have been several studies talking about how coronavirus can cause respiratory infections that may lead to lung damage and even death in severe cases.

However, less is known about its effects on the cardiovascular system.

Among many risk factors for COVID-19 previously reported by other studies, people who are elderly and have underlying medical conditions like chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, diabetes and obesity are more vulnerable to the disease.

Here are some commonly asked questions around the deadly virus by heart patients:

Are patients with underlying heart conditions at higher risk? Are they in the extremely-vulnerable group?
People over 65 years of age with coronary heart disease or hypertension are more likely to be infected by COVID-19. Patients with underlying cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure and arrhythmia may be more likely to show symptoms of the viral infection or acquire the infection more severely compared to others. Besides having a mild viral illness including sore throat, cough, aches and pains, and fever, they may also develop chest infection or pneumonia.

The ones at risk are those with compromised immunity such as heart transplant patients, individuals with heart failure and/or dilated cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle).

World Heart Day: Binge On Legumes, Nuts; Exercise For 45 Mins Daily

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Healthy Heart Tips

28 Sep, 2019
In India, half of all reported heart attacks are caused due to cardiovascular diseases in people under the age of 50, and 25% of those occur in people below 40. The population of cardiovascular patients is rising rapidly, and the disease is afflicting younger people at their peak. While a disease can be pathologically detected and treated at any stage, prevention really is key. Over the last few years, there has been a revival of interest in alternate methods of fitness and well-being accompanied by correction of diet and lifestyle. This approach has a positive impact on the body, and helps prevent major heart diseases. On World Heart Day, Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman & Managing Director of Medanta, The Medicity (Gurugram) shares tips to follow for a healthy heart.

Should heart patients visit the hospital as per their usual schedule?
The patients must consult their doctor before visiting the hospital for regular check-ups. Considering the current situation, patients may be advised to seek medical consultation over the phone or through a video chat.

How does viral infection affect the heart?
While the basis of contracting the virus is the same (through respiratory droplets) in heart patients, once it enters the body, it causes direct damage to the lungs and triggers an inflammatory response which places stress on the cardiovascular system. This leads to a drop in the blood oxygen levels and blood pressure.

When should heart patients seek medical intervention?
If you or someone in your family with an underlying heart condition has symptoms of the virus, especially worsening chest pain during exercise or while resting, shortness of breath, palpitations or fainting, you should consult your treating doctor. S/he will take a call basis the prognosis on transferring to a hospital facility.

Does the virus infect implanted devices?
No, the virus doesn’t have any effect on the implanted medical device such as a pacemaker.

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Patients may be advised to seek medical consultation over the phone or through a video chat.

Precautions for heart patients:
  • Avoid contact with people who are showing the Covid symptoms. Keep a 2-metre distance from people
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables to strengthen the body. Avoid consuming extra sugar
  • Practice breathing and meditation exercises to avoid feelings anxious
  • Clean often touched surfaces like doorknobs, handles, steering wheels or light switches with a disinfectant
  • If you have symptoms like fever (a temperature of 37.8°C or above), cough or chest infection, you should self-isolate
  • Patients should follow their medication regularly for heart failure, or high blood pressure to help prevent heart attack or stroke
  • Those with cardiovascular diseases should consult with their doctors, and get a flu shot. This shot will prevent another source of fever, which could potentially be confused with the coronavirus infection

(The author is Chairman and Head - PAN Max Cardiology at MAX super Specialty Hospital, Saket)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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