On the occasion of World Health Day 2021, Dr Arun Kalyanasundaram, Director and Chief – Division of Cardiology, Promed Hospital, Chennai reflects on how cardiac care has changed post pandemic and how people are looking at their health, especially heat health, post the outbreak of COVID-19
It is now well established that COVID-19 has cardiac manifestations. We understand at this point that it can affect the heart muscle directly, known as myocarditis, which can affect the blood supply to the heart, resulting in heart attacks. Elevated levels of cardiac biomarkers due to cardiac injury makes patients sicker and puts them at a higher risk of death. Severe COVID-19 infections are also potentially associated with cardiac arrhythmias at least in part, due to infection-related myocarditis.
Besides these acute complications, COVID-19 infection might be linked with an elevated long-term cardiac risk. Cardiac care, during the epidemic, has changed a lot since the time of COVID. During the initial periods, many patients also suffered due to limited accessibility to healthcare due to lockdowns and a general fear of COVID-19 itself. While it is important to realise that cardiac patients are at higher risk of complications from COVID, it is equally important to realise that cardiac patients need continued care, both on a scheduled basis and emergent. A lot of care has shifted to the virtual world in the post-COVID era. There have been several strides in the application of information technology and smart devices in patient care for several of the chronic diseases including heart disease patients.
From a patient standpoint, people are increasingly aware of how important adopting a healthy lifestyle matters. This is true both for better immunity against COVID complications and definitely for their heart health.
Patients, and in particular cardiac patients ought to maintain a healthy lifestyle i.e. eat healthy, quit smoking, restrict alcohol intake, get adequate sleep and keep physically active. Physical activity should be strongly encouraged either in a home setting or outdoor areas with social space and will also improve well-being. Social networking should be encouraged in person if it is safe, or at least virtually. Patients are highly encouraged to continue their medication for cardiac disease, and to have follow up virtually. They should seek medical help immediately if experiencing symptoms such as chest pain and not neglect symptoms. Cardiac follow-up needs to be continued and advice of a cardiologist should be sought promptly in case of deterioration of the heart condition.