February is Heart Health Month
Each year the American Heart Association designates February as Heart Health Month to raise awareness and encourage health style changes to lower risks. Heart disease caused by narrowed coronary arteries has been the major cause of death in both women and men around the world for decades. This year, rising Covid-19 deaths will skew statistics and within this high death rate are many who have underlying coronary artery disease.
Covid-19 typically impacts the respiratory system but may progress to other body parts including the heart. Older people who developed heart disease over a lifetime are at increased risk when infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19 illness. But the virus can also attack young healthy hearts.
Some survivors with no underlying heart disease who did not require hospitalization still developed heart complications. Heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis) and heart failure (decreased pumping ability) occur in some. Heart failure results in shortness of breath, ankle swelling and decreased exercise tolerance.
A Mount Sinai Health Systems study of 3,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 showed a high number with heart injury. Thirty-six percent showed elevated troponin levels indicating heart muscle damage. Rising blood troponin correlated with a higher risk of death. Even patients with mild heart muscle injury had a 75% higher risk of death than those with normal troponin levels.
Most people who test positive for COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, require no hospitalization, and experience a full recovery. Systemic effects from the infection are variable but include blood clotting disorders and nervous system involvement. An overwhelming immune response, called a “cytokine storm” results in cellular damage and shock in some patients. But many older people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney and lung problems have complicated courses. Reduced oxygenation that can be severe may evolve to irreversible lung damage.
Post COVID weakness and exhaustion require a cardiac workup. It is important to seek medical attention for chest pressure, shortness of breath, and palpitations (irregular heartbeat). If your heart rate is abnormally slow, fast, or irregular, make an appointment to see your doctor.
The workup will involve the following: a history of your symptoms, underlying risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure, known heart disease, medication list, and activity level prior to COVID-19 infection. Common evaluations include physical exam, chest X-ray, ECG, and an echocardiogram.
Contact the American Heart Association for general heart health guidance and follow CDC recommendations for protection during the pandemic. For personal safety and the safety of others, masks and social distancing are essential. Consult your healthcare provider or local health department to register for a vaccination as soon as possible. Follow safety precautions and always wear a mask when you leave your home.
Lower stress with education. Know your risks and take action.
Save lives and protect your heart.
Lipstick Logic Sisters Betty and Bev