Cardiovascular disease & Covid FAQs answered: Can coronavirus affect the pacemaker? Are heart patients vulnerable?

Heart patients must consult with their doctor before visiting the hospital.

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In case of worsening chest pain during exercise or while resting, shortness of breath, palpitations or fainting, consult your doctor.
By Dr Balbir Singh

There have been several studies talking about how coronavirus can cause respiratory infections that may lead to lung damage and even death in severe cases.

However, less is known about its effects on the cardiovascular system.

Among many risk factors for COVID-19 previously reported by other studies, people who are elderly and have underlying medical conditions like chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, diabetes and obesity are more vulnerable to the disease.


Here are some commonly asked questions around the deadly virus by heart patients:


Are patients with underlying heart conditions at higher risk? Are they in the extremely-vulnerable group?
People over 65 years of age with coronary heart disease or hypertension are more likely to be infected by COVID-19. Patients with underlying cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure and arrhythmia may be more likely to show symptoms of the viral infection or acquire the infection more severely compared to others. Besides having a mild viral illness including sore throat, cough, aches and pains, and fever, they may also develop chest infection or pneumonia.

The ones at risk are those with compromised immunity such as heart transplant patients, individuals with heart failure and/or dilated cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle).
World Heart Day: Binge On Legumes, Nuts; Exercise For 45 Mins Daily
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In India, half of all reported heart attacks are caused due to cardiovascular diseases in people under the age of 50, and 25% of those occur in people below 40. The population of cardiovascular patients is rising rapidly, and the disease is afflicting younger people at their peak. While a disease can be pathologically detected and treated at any stage, prevention really is key. Over the last few years, there has been a revival of interest in alternate methods of fitness and well-being accompanied by correction of diet and lifestyle. This approach has a positive impact on the body, and helps prevent major heart diseases.

On World Heart Day, Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman & Managing Director of Medanta, The Medicity (Gurugram) shares tips to follow for a healthy heart.
In India, half of all reported heart attacks are caused due to cardiovascular diseases in people under the age of 50, and 25% of those occur in people below 40. The population of cardiovascular patie..
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Our lives are becoming increasingly sedentary with people spending most of their time sitting in front of laptop, television or mobile screens. However, our body needs at least 45 minutes of physical activity daily. Introducing habits like walking around while at work or even taking a five-minute break to go out for a stroll can help a lot. This gives the eyes a much-needed break along with the mind and body. Incorporating physical exercises such as walking, running, cycling and aerobics as part of the daily routine is beneficial for heart health.
Our lives are becoming increasingly sedentary with people spending most of their time sitting in front of laptop, television or mobile screens. However, our body needs at least 45 minutes of physical..
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Adequate sleep is key to maintaining a healthy heart. Lack of sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, despite maintaining other health habits. Our body needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep daily and the lack of it can lead to stress. People with sleep apnea (sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts) must get themselves treated immediately as it increases the risk of heart disease and arrhythmia.
Adequate sleep is key to maintaining a healthy heart. Lack of sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, despite maintaining other health habits. Our body needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep ..
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Common heart diseases are caused due to high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. Therefore, it is important to consume a balanced diet. The diet should consist of 'heart-healthy' foods such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish and fish oils, healthy nuts like almonds, legumes like lentils, and fruits, among others. Consume foods that soothe your taste buds, as long as 80 to 90 per cent of what is on your plate comes from a plant or a grain. Don't give into the temptation to consume oily, sugary and junk food items, especially after the age of 40.
Common heart diseases are caused due to high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. Therefore, it is important to consume a balanced diet. The diet should consist of 'heart-healthy' foods such as green l..
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Mental health and stress are often ignored or overlooked, but they may play a major role in the prevention of common heart diseases.

Stress leads to an increase in hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can impact blood pressure and heart rate. Combating stress, especially with the increasingly demanding lifestyles, has long been emphasised. One must identify their triggers for stress and address or avoid them. Practice yoga and meditation to maintain inner calm. This reverses adverse effects of stress and anxiety. In case of loneliness or anxiety, one should seek professional counselling.
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Apart from following good habits, overall wellness is also important for heart health. Happiness plays a crucial role in determining wellness. It is important to socialise and strengthen relationships with family and friends for a sense of belongingness which helps overcome daily challenges. Relaxation is integral to having a sound mind and body. It is important to set aside time for hobbies and leisure pursuits. These have a therapeutic effect on the mind.
Apart from following good habits, overall wellness is also important for heart health. Happiness plays a crucial role in determining wellness. It is important to socialise and strengthen relationship..
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Regular screening is essential for monitoring overall health. This becomes even more imperative with increasing age.

While the life expectancy has increased over time, it is worthwhile only when it's disease free. The fundamental focus should be on right living, and the approach to healthcare and wellness should be based on this principle.
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Should heart patients visit the hospital as per their usual schedule?
The patients must consult their doctor before visiting the hospital for regular check-ups. Considering the current situation, patients may be advised to seek medical consultation over the phone or through a video chat.
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How does viral infection affect the heart?
While the basis of contracting the virus is the same (through respiratory droplets) in heart patients, once it enters the body, it causes direct damage to the lungs and triggers an inflammatory response which places stress on the cardiovascular system. This leads to a drop in the blood oxygen levels and blood pressure.

When should heart patients seek medical intervention?
If you or someone in your family with an underlying heart condition has symptoms of the virus, especially worsening chest pain during exercise or while resting, shortness of breath, palpitations or fainting, you should consult your treating doctor. S/he will take a call basis the prognosis on transferring to a hospital facility.

Does the virus infect implanted devices?
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No, the virus doesn’t have any effect on the implanted medical device such as a pacemaker.

heart-health_ThinkstockPhotos
Patients may be advised to seek medical consultation over the phone or through a video chat.

Precautions for heart patients:
  • Avoid contact with people who are showing the Covid symptoms. Keep a 2-metre distance from people
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables to strengthen the body. Avoid consuming extra sugar
  • Practice breathing and meditation exercises to avoid feelings anxious
  • Clean often touched surfaces like doorknobs, handles, steering wheels or light switches with a disinfectant
  • If you have symptoms like fever (a temperature of 37.8°C or above), cough or chest infection, you should self-isolate
  • Patients should follow their medication regularly for heart failure, or high blood pressure to help prevent heart attack or stroke
  • Those with cardiovascular diseases should consult with their doctors, and get a flu shot. This shot will prevent another source of fever, which could potentially be confused with the coronavirus infection

(The author is Chairman and Head - PAN Max Cardiology at MAX super Specialty Hospital, Saket)

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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