During these unsure times everyone understandably has a lot of questions. Here to bring you some clarity and comfort Dr. Hurst answered some of your most asked questions concerning COVID-19.
Q: It seems the people most at risk of having severe complications from COVID-19 are those who have underlying health conditions. With heart disease being so common, what are some specific guidelines people with a heart condition should follow during the pandemic? What should people do if they don’t have heart disease or other health issues?
A: You are right, heart disease is unfortunately very common, about 60% of us will have heart disease or stroke in our lifetime. And the early information does suggest that those with heart disease are at particularly high risk from COVID-19.
My recommendations for my patients with heart disease is to pay particular attention to social distancing recommendations. Wear a mask in public, avoid large groups, wash your hands frequently. And my advice for those who don’t have chronic health issues is to do the things that keep it that way. Stay active, eat nutritious food, get adequate sleep, and find ways to manage stress effectively. These things are important all of the time, but even more so during the pandemic, which looks like it’s not going to end anytime soon.
Q: If COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory infection, impacting the lungs, why would someone with a heart condition be more in danger of dying from the disease?
A: COVID-19 is most dangerous for those who are most vulnerable. That includes having people with prior health problems like heart disease, lung disease, immune problems, or just being older. Why people who have heart disease are at higher risk is still being investigated, it may be because they have less reserve to deal with the burden of the infection, or it may be because this virus attacks multiple organ systems, including the heart. We still have a lot to learn about COVID-19. The important message is to avoid infection if you are vulnerable, and no matter your health status, stay as healthy as you can.
Q: With health care systems dealing with treating COVID-19 patients, what do you recommend someone do if they have a heart attack? Where should they go?
A: People must know that they still need to seek urgent medical attention when it is indicated. Common examples would be signs of having a heart attack or stroke. A delay in the treatment of these conditions is life-threatening. Still, the best strategy for someone who is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke is to call 911.
Q: What does the latest research show on taking blood pressure meds, like ACE inhibitors, and their impact on COVID-19? Is it true that these meds could potentially increase our risk of infection?
A: No, it is not true that these medications increase the risk of infection or being sicker with COVID-19. Although there was some initial speculation that blood pressure medications such as ACEI (like lisinopril or benazepril) or ARBs (losartan, valsartan) may have a negative effect because they increase the receptors in the lungs that attach the novel coronavirus, subsequent research has shown that there is no increased risk from these medications and COVID. In fact, some research says they may be helpful. It’s too early to tell if that’s true or not, but the important message is that stopping these medications could be dangerous. They should NOT be stopped to lower the risk from COVID
Q:What are your recommendations for routine medical care during this time of the pandemic, particularly about routine lab testing?
A:I would recommend everyone be thoughtful about routine lab testing. Is it necessary right now, what is the risk for waiting, what are the risks having them done? The answers depend on the person, the situation, how prevalent is COVID in your community, and how stretched is the healthcare system in that location? This is a good opportunity to talk to your doctor about the necessity and timing of routine blood testing.