With the new coronavirus severely straining the U.S. health care system, experts are calling on heart attack and stroke survivors to take extra steps to reduce their risk of a repeat event.
The American Heart Association (AHA) said current information suggests that elderly people with heart disease or high blood pressure are more likely to be infected with the coronavirus and to develop more severe symptoms. And stroke survivors may be at increased risk for complications if they’re infected and get sick.
Up to 25% of people who survive a heart attack or stroke will have another one. Lifestyle changes and working closely with your doctor to manage your health can help minimize that risk, the AHA explained in a news release.
“What many people don’t realize is the hidden risks that led to your first event may be managed and, by doing this, you may reduce your risk of having another one,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the NYU Women’s Heart Program in New York City. She is also an AHA volunteer.
Up to 80% of heart attacks and strokes are preventable. Goldberg suggests talking to your doctor about a secondary prevention plan, and following these AHA guidelines:
- Take your medications as prescribed. Make sure you have enough of your medicines to last for an extended time. If necessary, ask your doctor and pharmacist if a larger amount can be prescribed.
- Get meds by mail, if possible. To avoid possible exposure to the coronavirus, getting medications by mail-order may be an option. Check the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on recommendations for getting medications.
- Ask your doctor about aspirin. Taking aspirin as recommended by a doctor is one way to help prevent another attack. Never start, stop or modify an aspirin regimen without consulting your doctor first.
- Follow doctor’s orders. Manage your risk factors — such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes — by taking medications as prescribed, not smoking, eating healthy and being active.
- Keep follow-up medical appointments. This helps your doctors keep track of your condition and recovery. Ask if a virtual visit is possible.
- Try online rehab. Take part in virtual cardiac rehabilitation, a medically supervised program designed to help you recover after a heart attack. Ask if there are exercises you can do at home.
Finally, lean on loved ones and other heart attack or stroke survivors for moral support. They can help you cope when you are scared, confused or overwhelmed. With many local support group meetings canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the AHA’s free online support network can help you get connected.
To join an online support group for heart attack and stroke survivors, visit the American Heart Association.