Coronavirus: How to protect yourself if you have a pre-existing heart condition

Mar 19, 2020
One in six Australians are affected by cardiovascular disease. Source: Getty.

People with chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease (CVD) are at higher risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus. But there are simple steps they can take to reduce the risk.

In addition to following the government’s advice on social distancing and hygiene, Prince of Wales Hospital cardiologist Dr Nigel Jepson is warning people with heart conditions to take extra precautions.

“We can see from the data in Wuhan that patients with an underlying heart condition may not be more likely to become infected in the first place but are at higher risk of developing complications including breathing problems, abnormal heart rhythms or, ultimately, heart failure, than others,” he said.

He says the increased risk of death for people with CVD is estimated to be nearly 10 per cent higher than a ‘healthy’ patient.

“We don’t want to create fear or panic but I don’t think we’re really getting the message across that, while for most of us COVID-19 would be an innocuous disease to get, we need to adopt caution and care to slow the rate of spread as much as possible, in order to protect those who could be more seriously affected.”

If you have a heart condition, Dr Jepson recommends avoiding large gatherings (even contexts with fewer than 100 people) and exercising caution when using public transport. For example, avoid busy times and routes in known outbreak areas. He also recommends avoiding airports, train stations, and busways.

Whether you’re picking up just a few things or stocking up for the week (within reason), Dr Jepson advises heading to the shops at quiet times or taking advantage of special store openings for at-risk seniors. It may also be worth ordering groceries online or getting help from family and friends.

He also recommends stocking up your prescriptions and postponing non-medical appointments or procedures. “Ask your pharmacist or GP to assist as shortages are occurring in some areas.”

Dr Jepson adds getting the flu vaccine is still important. “Stick to plans to be vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia, and others like your doctor advises, to avoid developing other conditions that can be confused with coronavirus.”

He also recommends eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping up an exercise routine. “If you live alone, think about low-risk activities you can do to socialise, such as meeting a friend outdoors for a walk,” he says.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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