Explained: Post-covid CVD Challenges, Why Vigilance Is Way Forward
In the era of Long-COVID, hospitals and primary care physicians have been witnessing an upward trend in persistent cardiac issues among patients, which includes younger patients with no relatable cardiac history
While the burden of COVID-19 is receding on our healthcare systems, people who were affected by the disease need to ensure that they don’t lower their guard against other communicable or non-communicable diseases. Multiple reports show that patients who have survived COVID could have weakened heart muscles, inner walls of veins and arteries. This could be related to pre-existing cardiac diseases that were not identified earlier or could have been triggered by COVID-19 infection.
In the era of Long-COVID, hospitals and primary care physicians have been witnessing an upward trend in persistent cardiac issues among patients, which includes younger patients with no relatable cardiac history. In the past, most COVID-19 patients suffered from an ‘irritable heart’ or a fast heart rate along with lung tissue that was affected. The viral infection lead to the formation of blood clots, which caused an acute myocardial injury and chronic damage to the cardiovascular system. SARS-CoV-2 associated coronavirus also led to an increased incidence of myocarditis or weakening of the heart muscles. The infection also increased incidences of pulmonary hypertension and anxiety neurosis.
Prevalence of Pulmonary Hypertension and Anxiety Neurosis
Pulmonary Hypertension is a condition in which osmotic pressure in the blood vessels supplying blood to the lungs increases, thus exerting pressure on the heart. On an average, almost 15-20 percent of patients developed pulmonary hypertension post COVID-19. In some cases, pulmonary hypertension was developed due to thrombo-inflammatory microvascular abnormalities. Many of us have experienced a surge of intense feelings during the lockdowns and while witnessing the horrors of COVID-19, and although the world has now reopened, some of those feelings still persist. Chronic anxiety affects your heart health as well. Anxiety increases your heart rate and also causes chest pain along with palpitations. It makes an individual breathe faster and if a patient suffers from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), anxiety could make things worse.
Long COVID and why we should not ignore it?
There is no reason to panic today, but one has to exercise a little bit of caution and recall the lessons learnt from the second and the third wave. The long term consequences of COVID-19 infection (commonly known as Long COVID) mostly affects the heart, lungs, nervous system and an individual’s mental health. While these long-term effects on the brain, heart and mind may not lead to direct fatality, they tend to be chronic and are extremely difficult to detect and treat. Patients living with comorbidities such as diabetes mellitus, ischemic heart disease, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and are immunocompromised due to chemotherapy and solid organ transplants, are more prone to long-term COVID. And this could be one of the reasons why physicians are, today, observing more patients with increased myocardial infarction, diabetes, and pulmonary embolism at an early age.
What should be done when a patient experiences a heart attack?
If we come across an individual who has collapsed suddenly due to a cardiac arrest, it is advised to act quickly. Make sure the patient is laid down on the floor immediately and check their pulse, while following COVID-19 protocols. If you cannot detect an arterial pulse, try resorting to CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) in order to restart the heart. An external defibrillator can also be used on the patient, if needed. A defibrillator is an easy-to-use medical device that can analyse the heart’s rhythm and deliver an electric shock or defibrillation, to set the heart right and re-establish a normal rhythm. The high energy shock is an essential part in trying to save the life of someone who is in cardiac arrest.
Timely diagnosis and management is crucial for patients and quicker the response, better are the rates of survival. The window of 60 to 90 minutes, termed as the ‘Golden Hour’, post a heart or a cardiac arrest is extremely crucial. Immediate and proactive action post the episode increases the survival rates by 4 to 5 times. Additionally, it is crucial to monitor your heart rhythm for a year post the episode, since physicians continue to see people suffering from heart attacks even six months after the initial one.
What can be done to manage Pulmonary & Cardiovascular Diseases post COVID-19?
The key is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes:
Including fruits, fresh juices, green leafy vegetables, lentils and egg to your diet: Eating healthy plays a crucial role in minimizing your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. It also helps you lose weight and beat obesity, a factor that puts you at risk of suffering from diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Lower the amount of sugar you consume
Check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels regularly
Keep an check on your LDL levels and ensure it is lower than 30 mg/dL,
Your blood pressure is important too. It should ideally be 120/80 mm, if it’s not, consistently, you should visit your doctor to assess you for hypertension.
Replace your old anti-diabetic medicine with newer generations like SGLT2 inhibitors
Address anxiety and reduce the stress you experience, as it helps reduce your chances of heart-related ailments.