Heart Failure and COVID19

The COVID19 pandemic has impacted people around the world and is still a major health threat, though restrictions are gradually being lifted in terms of movement, travel, work, etc. While older people and patients with chronic health conditions are more vulnerable to the disease, it is important, especially for Heart Failure patients, to stay informed and cautious1 Whether you or a loved one continue to stay home or have resumed normal activities, here is a list of things to carefully consider.

Keep in touch with your doctor or Cardiologist

Your doctor is the most important person who can understand your symptoms or condition and help you manage Heart Failure better. Even if the last few months have impacted your check-up routine, make sure you are using newer ways like phone calls/ mobile apps/ virtual appointments to stay connected to your doctor. Discuss your symptoms, changes in health or any other issues – mental and physical, with your doctor so that he/ she can help you better2.

Track your symptoms

Tracking symptoms is important for Heart Failure patients, but more so during these times. Do not let the long periods of staying indoors and inactivity impact your awareness to your symptoms. Ensure that you are keeping a note of changes like tiredness, weight fluctuations, etc. and updating your doctor accordingly.

Maintain daily task-lists

Following a daily routine and having a list of things-to-do will help you maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle even in these difficult times. Whether you are a caregiver or a patient, a quick, indicative checklist could include2:

  • Daily weight check – Note your daily weight changes and inform your doctor if you notice abnormal fluctuations.
  • Swelling – Keep an eye out for swelling in your ankles, legs or abdomen.
  • Breathing – Monitor your breathing and watch out for breathlessness either during your routine tasks or while lying down.
  • Exercise – If you have an exercise routine which can be done indoors, you can continue it after consulting with your doctor.


Seek help and support

The routine symptoms of Heart Failure combined with the pandemic-induced restrictions might lead to physical and mental exhaustion, anxiety, or stress. Make sure that you reach out to a loved one for support. With technology like video calls it is easy to stay connected and gain strength and support to manage your condition in these trying times2.

Going outside the house

Make sure you follow your local government’s directives when deciding to step outside your house, whether for work, essentials, doctor-visits, or any other purpose. If you are a Heart Failure patient or a caregiver to one, try to stay at home as much as you can considering it is still not completely risk-free to go outside. However, if you must step outside make sure you are3:

Going to work

While people might gradually begin to resume work, it is best for Heart Failure patients to continue working from home. If this is not possible, it is better to avoid public transport while travelling to work. Use private modes like a personal car or bike, if possible. A few steps that patients could take to ensure safety are4:

  • Asking your employer to have staggered timings so that you are not in contact with too many colleagues and can practice social distancing
  • Ensuring that your workplace has sanitizers and soaps handy
  • Continue to wear your face masks in the office to avoid risk of infection

Below are a few FAQs around what should be understood about heart conditions like Heart Failure and the ongoing COVID19 situation5:

1. Should heart medications dosages be changed?

Any changes to treatment that have not been recommended by a doctor could increase risk of a flare-up of the heart condition. Stopping or changing medication could be risky and make the condition worse. Please continue taking all medications exactly as prescribed. If in doubt, it is best to contact your doctor before making any changes to your dosages.

2. Do vitamins or other food supplements protect against COVID-19?

Taking formulated vitamins do not protect against COVID-19 and there is no trustworthy confirmatory data yet, on the effects of agents like vitamin C, hydroquinone and antivirals. However, a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits is generally recommended to help your body maintain a working immune system. If you have to take formulated vitamins, please ensure that the intake does not exceed the recommended daily dosage. Some vitamins might be harmful if taken in too high doses or might interact negatively with your heart medication.

3. How do I go for scheduled doctor appointments? Should going to clinics or hospitals be avoided?

There are certain conditions where face-to-face visits with the doctor are required. However, many such appointments are being cancelled and it is important to check with your doctor/ hospital if you can still attend. You can also make use of technology like phone calls, video calls/ chats or virtual consultations to consult and discuss your condition with the doctor.

4. What can be done about anxiety and mental wellbeing?

There are several things that can be done to cope with these difficult times and uncertainty.

  • Eat well and healthy
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Use virtual means of socialising
  • Stay busy with chores
  • Avoid excessive negative news consumption and messaging
  • Deep breathing to relax yourself and let the anxiety subside

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7191131/
  2. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/living-with-heart-failure-and-managing-advanced-hf/covid-19-and-heart-failure
  3. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/staying-safe-as-lockdown-eases
  4. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/work-and-coronavirus
  5. https://www.escardio.org/Education/COVID-19-and-Cardiology/what-heart-patients-should-know-about-the-coronavirus-covid-19

HF/KIP/65363/28/08/2020