How heart patients are keeping up with their ongoing treatment during COVID-19

While non-urgent procedures have been kept on hold, they do require constant monitoring both from the medical professional and the patient’s end

On a regular day at the hospital, several patients undergo treatment for heart, vascular or brain ailments. However, with the outbreak of COVID-19, patients have either been asked to avoid hospital visits to prevent the most vulnerable or have themselves decided to take precaution to protect against contracting the infection.

While non-urgent procedures have been kept on hold, they do require constant monitoring both from the medical professional and the patient’s end. Heart patients may question if they are doing the right things for their health at a time when there is limited research available surrounding this viral infection.

The underlying heart conditions that patients have 

People over 65 years of age with coronary heart disease, hypertension or Diabetes are not only more prone to getting infected but also likely to suffer more if infected by COVID-19. Patients with underlying heart conditions such as heart failure and poor pumping function may be more likely to show symptoms of the viral infection or acquire the infection more severely as compared to others. Besides having a mild viral illness including sore throat, cough, aches and fever, they may also develop chest infection like pneumonia.

The ones at risk are those with compromised immunity such as heart transplant patients, patients with device implantations like pacemakers, Defibrillators, individuals with heart failure and/or dilated cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle).

Seeking consultation

 While on ground consultation may not be feasible every time, some facilities and doctors are transitioning to virtual ways of staying in touch with patients. According to American College of Cardiology, 69% of providers are now using telehealth services for cardiac care. In fact, if you are currently being treated for a heart condition or have experienced a heart attack, it is very important to continue the medical interface through teleconsultation with your health care provider to reduce your risk of developing any complications in future. It is also advised that in-person cardiac implantable electronic device (CIED) checks can also be done with remote monitoring device from home.

Device management at home 

The foremost recommendation is to avoid moving out during the pandemic including visiting the hospital unless absolutely necessary and in emergency. Visiting the hospital for getting the device checked is not recommended and here is where remote monitoring plays a very important role. A substantial number of heart failure patients with a CIED have remote monitoring, which remains a powerful tool for off-site cardiac rhythm management. Despite its effectiveness, remote monitoring is significantly under-utilized as people still follow traditional consultation for device checkups. During the pandemic, remote monitoring should be used in most circumstances to reduce the need for non-urgent clinic visits for patients with heart failure, pacemakers and other implanted devices. Not only the pandemic, but remote monitoring should be adapted by patients under normal circumstances as well.

Patients can always be in touch with the doctor through tele-consultation. The doctor has a medical history of the patient and can offer the best suited medical advice, sitting far away. Patients who have devices implanted should consider visiting the doctor in case of an emergency only. In normal circumstances, these patients visit the hospital once every six months to get the device checked. However, they can be assured that following the prescribed medication regularly can keep them healthy and in case they experience any symptoms, they can always connect with the doctor and need not panic. Patients who are due to undergo a device implantation should rely only at the doctor advice and avoid visiting the hospital till the situation improves.

Precautions to take for care at home 

It is now, more than ever, vital to maintain a healthy lifestyle through diet, exercise and stress management activities such as yoga and meditation. Eat a well-balanced diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables to strengthen the body and avoid extra sugar and practice breathing and meditation exercises to avoid feelings of anxiety. Do not smoke and continue taking all the prescribed medications to maintain good control of your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.

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