man holding his chest in pain indoors

Viruses can impact the cardiovascular system, and while doctors and scientists are still trying to learn exactly how COVID-19 works, it is clear patients with a history of heart disease and high blood pressure need to be focused on staying healthy and not getting the virus. 

Doctors and scientists do not yet understand exactly how the coronavirus and COVID-19 work, but they are learning more every day. One thing that has become clear is patients with chronic medical conditions like heart and vascular disease as well as diabetes have a harder time with the virus and end up needing hospitalization more than individuals without those chronic conditions. While it’s harder for anyone with chronic conditions to recover from the virus, COVID-19 can add even more complications in the heart and vascular system.

“We know COVID-19 causes a severe inflammatory response in the body, and this inflammation can manifest as blood clots, heart attack and stroke,” says Alexandra Ward, M.D., a cardiologist with Riverside Cardiology Specialists. “For patients who already struggle with heart and vascular disease this can be particularly troublesome.”

How can you stay healthy? 

First, you need to practice the same good health behaviors everyone is encouraged to do. Wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Or, use hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol. Be sure to practice social distancing, staying at least 6 feet away from other people. And, take time to wipe down and clean “hot spots” in your home like doorknobs, phones and remote controls multiple times a day. Avoid social gatherings and stay home if possible to prevent exposure to the virus.

“For patients with heart and vascular disease, it is especially important to continue to take all the medications prescribed by their health care provider. Following the treatment plans already in place is the best way to keep their heart healthy and strong in case it does need to fight off COVID-19,” notes Dr. Ward. “Do not stop taking your medications unless instructed by your provider. And, if you are on a specific diet, such as one low in sodium, it is important to stick to that as well.”

More good health advice

Recommendations are that heart and vascular patients be up-to-date on all of their vaccines. And, don’t cancel regular appointments without talking to your provider first. Many providers are currently offering telehealth or video visits to help lower your chances of exposure to the virus in the doctor’s office. You may want to ask your provider if that is a good option for you.

Click here for more detailed information on caring for yourself and others during this time, two-page handout to keep in a visible place in your home.  If you have questions, call your care provider or contact Riverside Nurse 24/7 at 800-675-6368.

If you are concerned you or a loved one may have developed COVID-19, please learn more about the symptoms.  If you need to seek medical care and have flu-like symptoms, please call first so they know to expect you, and wear a mask. This is also true if you have to call 911 for a medical emergency; please let them know if you have flu-like symptoms.  

The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving rapidly. Learn more about the virus and Riverside Health System updates by visiting riversideonline.com/covid-19

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