Spectrum Health Lakeland Answers Questions about COVID-19 and the Heart
Apr 20, 2020 Share

Delayed treatment poses real danger to heart patients

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. – New research has determined that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 can do alarming damage to the heart. In fact, one out of five patients with COVID-19 experience heart damage, according to a study published in March in JAMA Cardiology.

People already diagnosed and suffering from heart disease have increased concerns about their risk, in light of the current health crisis. Cardiologist, Dennis Disch, MD, answers several of the most commonly asked questions.

Should people with heart disease be particularly concerned about COVID-19 and, if so, why?

People with chronic conditions such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, or congestive heart failure are a vulnerable population meaning if they were to contract COVID-19 it can lead to more severe symptoms and a greater chance of hospitalization and even death. Based on current data, this is especially true for people age 65 years or older with underlying heart conditions.

What recommendations do you have for your heart patients? Any special precautions?

While we should all be adhering to recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s important for heart patients to strictly follow guidelines for social distancing and hand washing to minimize risk and avoid a potential exposure. Patients with heart disease or other related conditions should also seek medical treatment immediately when experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath.

When should a patient reach out to their provider for help?

In addition to reaching out to their primary care physician regarding any possible symptoms of COVID-19, heart patients should also contact their cardiologist if they experience any new or changing symptoms which could be related to their heart condition, such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, unexplained weight gain, leg swelling, or dizziness.

How or when is telehealth the right option?

During this time, if a patient is unable to come to the office or has routine questions that don’t require an in-person visit, a telehealth visit can be made available in most cases by video conference or phone. Patients with new cardiac conditions or symptoms should still be seen in the office to facilitate a thorough physical examination and an electrocardiogram, as indicated. Those with serious, life-threatening symptoms should always call 9-1-1.

What is the risk of avoiding or delaying potential treatment?

People may be choosing to stay home or not seeking attention because of concerns about going to a hospital or provider’s office during this time. It’s important to note that healthcare facilities across the nation, including Spectrum Health Lakeland, have several precautions in place to ensure safe care. There is minimal risk when coming to the office to be evaluated by a cardiologist or for appropriate cardiac testing. We have redesigned our workflow and office space to protect patients from exposure to COVID-19, with considerably less risk than visiting a public place such as the grocery store. Delaying necessary treatment of chronic heart conditions, even if they are seemingly stable, can potentially be quite dangerous and result in long term consequences or even death.

More information about COVID-19 is available at 

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