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Heart Beat: COVID-19's Impact on Your Heart


Anyone can become sick with COVID-19 (coronavirus), but some people are more affected than others. While we're learning more about the virus every day, we do know that people with heart conditions have a higher risk for severe illness. We talked with Ronald Freudenberger, MD, Physician in Chief with Lehigh Valley Heart Institute to find out more about COVID-19 and the heart.

How does COVID-19 affect people with preexisting heart conditions?

Many of the people who have been affected the most severely have preexisting heart conditions. This could be because people who have congestive heart failure or heart disease have less of a cardiac reserve to be able to withstand the stress of pneumonia and low oxygen levels.

We are seeing reports of the direct effects of the virus on the heart. When someone has COVID-19, the heart muscle can become inflamed, causing a condition called myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). There are also many reports coming out that have demonstrated an increased clotting in patients with COVID-19. This can happen in other overwhelming infections as well.

All that being said, many people who have preexisting heart conditions survive COVID-19 infections without hospitalization. It’s important to stay in contact with your provider about treating the symptoms of coronavirus.

Does taking blood pressure medication affect a person’s risk for COVID-19 infection or complications?

High blood pressure does increase the risk for complications of COVID-19, so it's important to continue the regimen laid out for you by your physician. These medications do not increase your risk for contracting COVID-19.

What if I have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, chest tightness)?

If you think you may have a COVID-19 infection and you’re experiencing minor symptoms, you can reach out to a health care professional through one of the following methods:

If your COVID-19 symptoms need emergency care, call 911 and let them know you have COVID-19. Try to put on a mask before medical professionals arrive. Symptoms requiring emergency attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

  • New confusion or inability to arouse

  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all inclusive. Please consult a medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

If someone is experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath or persistent heart racing, what should they do?

If you are experiencing heart attack symptoms like these, call 911 immediately. This does not change during a pandemic. Our team has taken extra precautions to ensure that you will be safe in our ER. During a heart attack, time is muscle; the sooner we treat patients and open their arteries, the greater the chance of survival and full recovery.

Learn more about the extraordinary care you can receive at Lehigh Valley Heart Institute. Visit LVHN.org/heart.

What are your tips to help people stay healthy?

The most important thing is to continue healthy habits, so that means eat a healthy diet, stay active, stay hydrated and continue medications. It’s also important to stay up to date with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, wear a cloth face mask and wash your hands regularly.

Find out if your pharmacy can mail medication refills and try to have two weeks of medication on hand. Monitor your symptoms and if you have any questions, reach out to your provider. We are still here and only a call away.