Heart failure raises the risk of complications and death from COVID-19, and requires extra vigilance during the pandemic, the American Heart Association (AHA) says.
More than 6 million people in the United States have heart failure. It occurs when the heart no longer pumps blood as well as it should.
“When the cardiac system is weakened by heart failure and unable to maintain normal efficiency, it can be susceptible to the inflammatory stress induced by a viral infection like COVID-19,” Dr. Jacob Chemmalakuzhy said in an association news release. He’s medical director of advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology at Medical City Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas.
Another concern is that people with heart failure may have a weakened immune system.
If you have heart failure, the AHA says you must manage your symptoms and report significant changes to your health care provider team. This enables the team to monitor your symptoms — which can be done via telemedicine — before deciding if you should go to a hospital.
According to the association, people with heart failure should do these things every day:
- Weigh yourself and report increases of 2-3 pounds to your health care team,
- Monitor any swelling in the legs,
- Monitor shortness of breath,
- Watch for chest pain,
- Assess whether you can do the same level of physical activity as the previous day,
- Make sure you get enough restful sleep.
As much as possible, people with heart failure should avoid exposure to others due to the risk of COVID-19.
Because of this, the heart association also offered suggestions for people who can’t make in-person visits to loved ones with heart failure.
You can keep in touch virtually or by phone to see how your loved one is doing. Mention the need to do daily self-checks and to take prescribed medications.
Make a plan in case your loved one develops COVID-19 symptoms: Have him or her call their health care team to find out the next steps for care and testing.
People with heart failure also need to know to call 911 if they have life-threatening symptoms, such as shortness of breath that comes on suddenly and does not resolve with rest, or is paired with chest pain, dizziness or lightheadedness.
Help your loved one with virtual appointments if in-person appointments aren’t an option. Set up a conference call so you can listen in and ask questions, and ask the health care provider for guidance if there is an immediate need for tests and visits.
Offer to get groceries and do other outside errands for your loved one, or offer to arrange grocery deliveries.
The American Heart Association has more on COVID-19.