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Tips for a healthy heart during COVID-19

17 May 2020 By HUBERT VAZ

It is wellknown that COVID-19 affects the lungs and can render serious consequences from difficulty in breathing to ultimate death. However, the disease can also affect the heart, nervous system, digestive system and even skin, says Dr Benny Panakkal, MD, Badr al Samaa Group of Hospitals.

Dr Panakkal explains that COVID-19 affects the heart muscle by directly infecting the heart muscle fibres and destroying them. Secondly, the body’s own defence system, that is activated in response to the virus infection, can destroy and create havoc in many body systems, including the heart. Damage to the heart can lead to heart failure and an increased tendency to form blood clots leads to heart attacks and strokes, he explained.

“While a majority of people who are infected with this virus recover eventually, in some people, the disease becomes more severe. This is more common in the older persons, diabetics, hypertensives and those with pre-existing heart disease.  So, the latter group of people should take more care from getting infected. Preferably, stay at home and take maximum precautions against getting infected,” Dr Panakkal said, adding that other members of the family can take up essential outdoor tasks.

He stressed that whoever goes out should wear masks and gloves, and  make sure to discard them appropriately before entering the home, besides take othr precautions like washing hands, feet and face, or have a batth immediately.

“Staying at home may be boring but we can always find creative ways to spend time effectively. Many employers are encouraging the employees to work from home and, if one is fortunate to do this, it is well and good,” he said.

Dr Panakkal also said, one can find time to do simple exercises. If one is staying in an apartment, activities like walking in the corridors or climbing the stairs are good exercises. If the area one is living is not crowded and offers places to go out and walk it is also a good choice, provided one follows the local guidelines for social distancing.

“One interesting phenomenon observed in many people is that their cholesterol levels have declined one month post lockdown. It was also found that, before the lockdown, many were eating out at least thrice a week, whereas during the lockdown, they consumed home cooked food which kept them healthy,” he said.

Dr Panakkal also pointed out that, initially, there had been some concerns regarding the use of some common blood pressure and heart medications which were suspected to be related to the susceptibility and severity of COVID infections. The group of medications implicated were two classes of drugs – ACE inhibitors and ARB’s. Common medicines coming under these groups include drugs like Lisinopril, Perindopril, Losartan, Valsartan, Irbesartan, etc. 

“It was earlier speculated that these medicines may increase certain cellular receptors that facilitates the entry of the virus into the body cells. Subsequently, it was found that this is not correct and all professional bodies like the European Society of Cardiology and American College of Cardiology have advised not to discontinue the use of these drugs by those who are currently using them,” he assured, adding, “During this lockdown and COVID times, lets all stay healthy, make use of our time efficiently and soon this will also pass.”


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