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How COVID-19 Impacts Heart Health

Jan 18, 2021
heart monitor readout

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus that can attack lung tissue. It is spread through the air when an infected person talks, sneezes, or coughs, and the droplets are inhaled by another person.

Why is COVID-19 so serious?

Although COVID-19 is an airborne viral infection like the flu, there is no existing immunity nor—until recently—has there been a vaccine. COVID-19 infections can quickly develop serious and fatal complications such as septic shock, acute respiratory failure or distress, pneumonia, and heart failure, especially in individuals with underlying chronic conditions.

How COVID-19 affects the heart

COVID-19 can target lung tissue and damage the respiratory system, making it harder for your heart to pump oxygenated blood through the body and damaging the heart muscle. Subsequent widespread inflammation throughout the body, as well as the potential to invade receptor cells within the heart, can also impacts heart function and can lead to heart failure.

COVID-19 has been shown to cause heart damage—such as myocardial injury, blood clots, or arrhythmias—in about 25% of patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 infections, including some patients with otherwise healthy hearts.

Current data indicates that the amount of damage the heart sustains from a COVID-19 infection largely depends upon the individual’s immune response, the presence of any preexisting conditions or comorbidities, and the amount of virus infecting the individual.

COVID-19 in patients with heart disease or other preexisting heart conditions

While heart disease does not necessarily make a person more likely to contract COVID-19, preexisting cardiovascular conditions can make the illness worse and more severe. Individuals with heart disease likely already have a compromised immune system, making them more susceptible to serious complications and less able to effectively fight off an infection. According to the CDC, those with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease were 6 times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die from a COVID-19 infection than people without chronic conditions.

Among the greatest risk factors for developing complications from a COVID-19 infection are:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure). Hypertension alone has been linked to a 2.5-times great risk of complications and death from COVID-19 in people over the age of 60.
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • High blood glucose levels

While the direct link is still unknown, many researchers speculate that in patients with preexisting cardiovascular conditions, the cells that line their blood vessels react differently to the body’s immune response than those of healthier patients. These cells, which release inflammatory cytokines—proteins that regulate immunity—and contribute to the risk of heart attack or stroke, can also lead to blood clot formation and accelerate the body’s immune response, increasing the severity and mortality of the body’s response to a COVID-19 infection.

I have heart disease. What steps should I take to protect myself from COVID-19?

Heart disease does not necessarily put you at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, but it does increase your risk of complications or death should you become infected. The most important thing is to do all you can to stay healthy and minimize your risk of exposure. This includes:

  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging, or any other close physical contact.
  • Stay at home whenever possible and maintain social distancing when out in public.
  • Wear a mask to reduce the number of airborne contaminants you inhale.
  • Clean surfaces frequently and avoid touching surfaces when away from home.
  • Adopt or increase stress-relieving activities that can help keep your mind, heart, and body healthy, such as walking, yoga, or meditation.
  • Control current conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes and make sure you have enough medication on hand to avoid leaving home often.
  • Continue taking current medications exactly as prescribed and keep all scheduled appointments with your physician.
  • Stay vigilant to the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. Even in a pandemic, you should seek immediate help for an emergency. If you experience any of the signs of cardiovascular distress, call 911 right away.
  • Adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as regular exercise, a healthy sleep routine, and cooking at home to improve your overall health. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and physical inactivity.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19, including high fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing, or loss of taste or smell. Stay home and notify your doctor immediately if you begin to experience any of these. Other viruses tend to have similar symptoms, so your doctor will decide whether or not to order you a COVID-19 screening.

The potential long-term damage of COVID-19

The greatest concern regarding COVID-19 is the unknown long-term effects of an infection. With symptoms like joint pain, chest pain, and fatigue that can linger for months after recovery, medical professionals and researchers worry that COVID-19 could lead to worse, longer-lasting damage than other illnesses. While some cardiovascular damage caused by COVID-19 may heal on its own in some patients, it may cause an increased risk of heart failure in others.

Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, is one of the possible long-term side effects being linked to COVID-19. Myocarditis is one of the leading causes of sudden cardiac failure and death among competitive and professional athletes, even if no other heart conditions exist. Medical researchers are concerned that the higher rate of myocarditis linked to COVID-19 infections as opposed to viruses may indicate that although infected individuals present only mild symptoms—or may even be asymptomatic—the virus is still causing significant damage to the heart.

Information about the COVID-19 coronavirus is evolving every day as scientists and medical professionals learn more about the virus and its potential side effects. The physicians and staff at CardioVascular Health Clinic are here to answer any questions you may have concerning COVID-19 or your risk of contracting the virus.

CardioVascular Health Clinic

At CardioVascular Health Clinic, we are committed to helping you achieve and maintain the healthiest lifestyle possible, and this means continuing to provide the cardiovascular treatments you need with the care and safety you deserve. We are welcoming new and existing patients for in-person and virtual care, adhering to all federal and state executive orders and guidance, and following all OSHA, AMA, and CDC guidelines and best practices regarding COVID-19.

The team of doctors at CardioVascular Health Clinic specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cardiovascular diseases and conditions, including those that increase your risk of complications from COVID-19. We also deliver the added benefit of being a small, specialized facility that only treats cardiovascular conditions. Unlike larger hospitals and care centers, which serve a diverse population with a wide range of conditions, cardiovascular patients are all we see, and cardiovascular procedures are all we do. This means we do not function as a facility that treats or screens for COVID-19 patients, lowering your risk of contracting this—or any other infectious disease—than at a traditional hospital.

We know care can’t wait, especially the comprehensive, uninterrupted care you need to stay healthy. For questions on how we continue to keep you, and every patient, safe in our clinic or to schedule an in-person or virtual visit to find out your risk of complications from COVID-19, call us today at (405) 701-9880. You can also use our easy online contact form. CardioVascular Health Clinic is focused on excellence and focused on you.

Patient Resources

We’re committed to timely, efficient, and affordable care.
Here is a collection of useful resources our new and existing patients need in one convenient location.
Please let us know if you need additional information or have any questions.

Testimonials

Professional staff working in a beautiful facility with great doctors who sincerely care about their patients. Without Dr. Schmidt's skill, I would have needed heart bypass surgery instead of a stent. Follow-up has been thorough. I can't recommend them highly enough.
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LeAnn Harner

Dr. Jim Melton and all the staff are fantastic. He is an excellent surgeon and his team is GREAT!!!! I just had surgery at the surgery center, I have only great things to say about my experience. Without him I really don't think I would be here to write this. If you’re looking for a good cardiovascular team, they are a 5 star for sure.

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Susie Brooks Harrison

Dr. Parsons and staff are amazing. He truly listened to me from the consult. Staff showed genuine care for my progress post procedure. I had my follow up appointment today so satisfied with results. Blake made me comfortable from the start. He is an activist for uterine fibroids treatment beyond the standard.

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Tamara Means

Professional and caring staff. Dr. Smith is very knowledgeable and shows genuine concern for your personal health. I enjoyed the background music in the procedure room, it really adds to the relaxing atmosphere.

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David Lambert

Dr. John Schrader is the most personable doctor we know. He stays on top of my dads health care and is genuinely concerned about his health. We never leave his office with questions. He answers them all. Even questions we don’t think of. Always professional but never cold or bad bedside manner. In our opinion he is THE BEST around.
Thank you Dr Schrader.

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Kathy J

I came to Dr. Warren by a self referral for mals when it took me 8yrs 50+ doctors and thousands of dollars spent on no answers. My first visit I was scared I was just going to be gaslighted just like the past however I was pleasantly shocked when Dr. Warren immediately believed me. She took the time to review many disk I had brought from past tests. She never once dismissed me and listened to ever word I had to say. She scheduled one last test to confirm the diagnosis then I was scheduled for surgery right away. Surgery was a success and I can’t thank her and her staff enough. Dr. Warren truly saved my life.

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Angie W

Dr. Garner literally saved my life 18 months ago and I've followed him to his new practice with Cardiovascular Health. He explains things so clearly, listens and is just a very nice person. His staff is great, too! I highly recommend!

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D Watts

Some of the nicest staff that I have ever dealt with!! They have been so incredibly awesome to my mom!! Would definitely recommend them to anyone!! Thank you so much for being so great with her!!

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Christy Garvie

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