As we are still in the throes of the global severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), it’s impact on the lungs and different organs of the body is a real cause of concern. Although the clinical symptoms of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), are primarily respiratory, several cardiac problems have also been observed in patients during Covid and its recovery. This is not particularly surprising as the heart and lungs both work in tangent with each other to provide oxygen rich blood to various parts of the body. Damage to one organ can invariably have a domino effect on the heart as well, although there are several factors that contribute to this.
In order to fight the Covid-19 virus, inflammation in the body is an expected immune response. Excessive and prolonged inflammation (called cytokine storm) affects the heart, weakens heart muscles and can lead to fluid build-up. While the Covid-19 infection by itself can invariably affect the heart, the treatment protocol required to defeat Covid-19 could cause blood clots in the arteries, which is usually managed by the medical team. Direct viral myocardial damage, hypoxia, hypotension, elevated inflammatory state, ACE2-receptor downregulation, drug toxicity, and acute myocarditis, acute heart failure, and arrhythmias appear to be among the cardiac symptoms. Elderly people and people with pre-existing heart conditions are even more susceptible to suffering from heart-related incidents triggered by Covid-19. For proper triage and management of these patients, a thorough knowledge of the hemodynamic and diagnostic implications is required.
Heart patients with or without Covid must be cautious about the following symptoms and seek medical help immediately if they experience any of these –
- Pain or pressure in the chest while performing any activity
- Arm weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- Facial drooping on one side of the face
- Changes in speech, such as unclear or confused speech, visual impairment
- Extensive headache
- Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath at night
- Swelling in the legs
- Dizziness, fainting or passing out
Self-care for heart patients is more important than ever during the pandemic. People must take precautions to protect themselves from the Covid infection itself, keep their heart as healthy as possible, and address any unusual signs or symptoms of heart dysfunction, particularly if they have recovered from Covid. The following are some basic tips –
- Continue to take regular heart medications as prescribed and eat meals that are good for your heart. Reduce carbohydrates, especially refined carbs in the diet. Balanced meal plans are beneficial.
- Keep an eye out for any existing problems and for any new symptoms or anomalies. Do not avoid visiting the doctor – if you experience any of the above symptoms, seek help immediately. Many people are prolonging doctor visits when they experience symptoms and reach the hospital late.
- Pay attention to physical and mental health – monitor weight, avoid taking on too much stress, and find healthy ways to cope if you are dealing with stress or weight issues
- Breathing exercises, yoga, meditation is good for the heart
- It is recommended to take frequent breaks from sitting to promote blood circulation, stretch your legs by going outside, and stick to your regular workout program as much as possible.
- Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep every night to get enough rest.
- Don’t smoke or consume excessive amounts of alcohol
- Get regular health screenings to stay updated about your heart health
Article by Dr. S. Venkatesh, Lead Consultant – Interventional Cardiology, Aster RV Hospital, JP Nagar, Bengaluru