Professor (Dr) Rajesh Vijayvergiya, from the Department of Cardiology, PGIMER, talks to the Indian Express on how the Covid infection causes side effects on the heart, lung and circulatory system and the importance of taking regular medicines for heart diseases.
Is it true that Covid affects patients with heart diseases and face more complications of the disease? As a cardiologist what are your observations?
Patients with underlying heart disease are at increased risk of complications such as intensive care unit admission, ventilator support and also death, following Covid infection.
What strategies do you have to keep in mind while treating them?
Any individual who is not taking adequate or appropriate precaution is prone to Covid infection. Regarding the treatment of Covid positive heart patients, we have to treat both the diseases and its complications. A combination of two leads to more complications compared to the individual disease. The standard treatment as recommended by the physician should be continued, even if someone has COVID infection.
Have you observed any new trends in COVID patients whom you have treated? Have they complained later of issues related to the heart?
Certain markers of heart injury, which we usually look for are, minor or major heart attacks, may be raised in Covid infected patients without heart attacks, hence we have to cautiously interpret the findings and to manage them appropriately. Covid infection leads to two types of cardiac complications one is acute, during the infection and other is chronic when the patient has recovered from the infection.
Hence, heart patients who have recovered from Covid infection should also be evaluated for any progression of underlying heart disease or a new manifestation, especially the elderly with associated co-morbid illnesses.
Does the disease have long-term implications on the heart?
As the pandemic has affected us for the last few months only, the long-term data of years has not come out.
Preliminary reports of short-term follow up have suggested that the infection causes side effects on the heart, lung and circulatory system, even after recovery.
The death rate is higher in co-morbid patients. What are your observations? Are older people more likely to be affected?
There are certain risk factors for Covid complications such as elderly, those with diabetes, hypertension, renal failure, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer patients on chemotherapy. These subsets of patients are advised to take immediate consultation on the suspicion of infection, so they can be managed on time to avoid complications and have good outcomes.
Does Covid affect the heart more than any other organs?
Covid infection affects the whole body instead of just the heart. It is a generalized infection and inflammation.
What precautions can people with heart disease take to prevent infection?
Guidelines for the prevention from Covid infection are already in place. Infected heart patients should continue their medicines regularly without any interruption even during infection. They are supposed to consult the nearby Covid treatment facility where appropriate management can be chart out for the individual patient.
How important is cardiovascular fitness? What are your suggestions for a healthy heart, especially in these stressful times?
Physical fitness and regular exercise is an important aspect of the physical and mental wellbeing of an individual. Try to do regular walk or exercise. Avoid overcrowding, busy places during exercise to prevent cross-infection. One should have adequate ventilation during exercise with the face mask on.
Any evident stress during the ongoing pandemic can be modified by meditation, yoga, exercise, change of workplace environment, involvement in certain creative activities and if required psychological counselling. With less physical activity and work from home, there is a likelihood that one may put on the weight. Reduction of body weight can be achieved by an appropriate balance of physical activity and food intake. People should not indulge in self-medication during the ongoing pandemic.
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