The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted healthcare systems across the globe and there are new discoveries being made with regard to the effect of the virus on various health conditions almost every other day. A new study by the JAMA Cardiology Journal highlights that patients affected by COVID-19 can develop heart conditions post recovery.
The study further brings to light the effects of the virus on cardiovascular health. Patients with existing heart conditions or heart abnormalities are more vulnerable to the virus which can damage the heart in various ways. The cells in the heart are covered with protein molecules that act as a doorway for the SARS-Cov-2 virus to enter the cells and multiply. This means that COVID-19 can directly infect cells in the cardiovascular system.
The rising burden of CVDs in India:
According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of mortality in India. The rise of sedentary lifestyles due to modifiable risk factors such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, harmful effects of tobacco and alcohol and other habit-forming substances have enhanced the risk for CVDs.
This coupled with non-modifiable risk factors like disorders of the heart and blood vessels, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, peripheral artery disease, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease and heart failure has led to India becoming the cardiac capital of the world.
Safety precautions for heart patients amidst the pandemic:
Under normal circumstances, patients with heart disorders visit the hospital and seek in-person medical consultation as part of their regular check-up or during a surgery or emergency. However, the pandemic has imposed limitations on this and therefore it is even more important for heart patients to take care of themselves while being at home.
Most patients with a pre-existing cardiovascular disease are prone to develop severe complications due to COVID-19 and must undertake precautionary measures to protect their heart health. While there are restrictions on visiting the doctor in-person, patients should regularly be in touch with them through tele-consultation.
They must be aware of the warning signs of heart disorders and seek medical consultation immediately on experiencing pain or tightness in the chest, chest pressure or discomfort, pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in the legs or arms, pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back. Patients must also take their medication regularly and follow COVID-safety protocols like maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask while stepping out compulsorily.
Quick tips for maintaining heart health:
• Stay home but stay active - Set a fixed routine for exercising and follow it strictly. Early mornings are the best. Basic home workout will help you stay fit and healthy
• Stay in touch with your doctor – There has been an increasing trend of seeking consultations online. In case you have any existing health condition, keep in touch with your family doctor and keep them posted on your health condition
• Eat healthy – A healthy diet leads to a healthy heart - whatever we eat, directly or indirectly, impacts our heart health. Consuming home cooked food with healthy and fresh ingredients are good for your heart and overall health
• Avoid stress - Keeping a track of your mental health is a must. Stress is one of the greatest enemies of the heart. Being positive and optimistic is the best way to keep your heart healthy
COVID-19 has affected everyone in different ways. While staying at home has helped combat the pandemic significantly, it has come with its own set of challenges. Therefore, keeping yourself healthy in the present scenario is extremely important not only to protect your heart health but to ensure overall well-being.
(Dr. Viveka Kumar is Principal Director & Chief of Cath Labs (Pan Max) - Cardiac Sciences at Max Hospital)