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Q: I have heart disease. What do I need to know about COVID-19?

Scientists are learning more about COVID-19 every day. Right now, it looks like people with heart disease aren’t more likely to be infected with COVID-19, but they are more at risk of serious illness, complications, or death if they do catch it. According to data from the CDC, COVID-19 patients with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease are six times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die as a result of the virus.

When someone catches COVID-19, it can cause heart problems or make heart problems worse. The virus can trigger extreme inflammation in the body resulting in blood clots that could lead to heart attacks and/or strokes, including in people who are young and healthy.

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 if you have heart disease is to try to avoid exposure. Stay home if possible, avoid large gatherings, wear a mask and keep six feet away from people who don’t live in your household, and wash your hands frequently.

Manage your heart disease by keeping up with your cardiologist and primary care physician, as well as taking all medication as prescribed. Take care of yourself by eating healthy, staying physically active, and finding healthy ways to manage stress.

Finally, if you’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, call 911. We’re taking many precautions to protect patients and staff from COVID-19. It’s safe to come to the hospital, and we have the capacity to care for anyone who needs help. Remember that when you’re having a heart attack or stroke, every second counts. Any delay in getting care could mean the difference between life and death or serious complications. So, don’t hesitate to seek immediate medical care.

And, if needed, Maui Health continues to offer comprehensive cardiac services including advanced cardiac imaging (including state-of-the-art CT and MRI), angioplasty and other interventional cardiology procedures, cardiac rehabilitation, electrocardiography services, such as ECG/EKG, and cardiac surgery. Visit mauihealth.org/heart for more information.

Shalin H. Patel, MD

Interventional cardiology

Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic
85 Maui Lani Parkway
Wailuku, HI 96793