People of all ages can be infected by the new Novel coronavirus. But the virus poses a special threat for the people over the age of 60 and those who suffer from other medical conditions, like:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic respiratory disease
Like most viruses the coronavirus also spread through droplets in the air from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talkingor by touching surfaces that contain the virus, as this virus can survive for several hours or even days on surfaces such as tables and door handles.
Someone with pre-existing heart disease who becomes ill with COVID-19 may suffer a heart attack or develop congestive heart failure due to a combination of the severe viral illness, an increased demand on the heart (fever causes rapid heart rate), along with low oxygen levels due to pneumonia and increased propensity for blood clot formation. In addition to the increase in the above discussed problems, a more unusual condition called myocarditis has also been observed in COVID-19 patients.
Sometimes COVID-19 patients appear to be having a heart attack but are actually suffering from an inflammation of the heart muscle, called myocarditis. Their electrocardiograms may show changes suggestive of a major heart attack, and the blood tests also show elevated levels of troponin, a cardiac enzyme that is released when heart muscle is damaged. Due to the COVID-19 Infection the heart muscle in a heart patient becomes weaker, andthey may also suffer from Arrythmia. Thus, research shows severe injury to the heart muscle, and increased troponin levels, are associated with heart patients who are at an increased risk of death with COVID-19
Who are the people at risk?
- People who are on immunosuppressants, such as transplant patients, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy, patients with leukaemia or lymphoma,and people who have heart disease are at greatest risk of contracting and succumbing to the effects of the virus.
- Other high-risk groups include elderly people as well as pregnant women suffering from cardiovascular disease.
- Individuals with pre-existing heart conditions, such as heart failure, dilated cardiomyopathy, advanced forms of arrhythmia, patients with the obstructive form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and patients with congenital heart disease are at a greater risk.Sometimes due to the inflammatory effects of the virus, there is a risk of rupture of atherosclerotic plaques or fatty deposits in the coronary arteries, leading to a heart attack.
Thus, acute inflammatory response caused by the infection may worsen cardiac function and increase symptoms in patients with heart failure.
There is no evidence till now that the virus infects pacemakers and cardioverter-defibrillators or causes infective endocarditis in those with valvular heart disease.
Protocols to follow by Cardiac Patients
There are no special dos or don’ts for higher-risk cardiac patients to prevent COVID-19 exposure, but such individuals should follow the frequent handwashing and physical distancing and self-isolation. It remains vitally important to exercise at home, get enough sleep, manage stress, and eat a balanced diet. These healthy habits will not only bolster the immune system to help ward off COVID-19, but will help prevent CVD progression in the longer term.