Concerns and fear about COVID-19 are causing people with heart disease to delay their care and avoid hospital visits. Being concerned is understandable, said Dr. Manesh Patel, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Duke Health. However, waiting to seek care can worsen your condition and put you at risk for serious complications.
“We have seen patients delaying care, coming in with heart attack symptoms, who are in worse shape than if they would have come in immediately,” Dr. Patel said. “If you’re having heart attack or stroke symptoms, you need to dial 911.” Likewise, if you need to see your doctor to manage your chronic heart condition, you should do so.
It’s important for you to know precautions are in place at Duke hospitals and clinics to ensure your safety so you can quickly get the care you need.
Stress Raises Your Heart Disease Risk
The current situation has increased stress and anxiety for many people, neither of which is good for your heart. When people are stressed, Dr. Patel said, “their blood pressure goes up; it’s harder to eat healthy and exercise.” It can cause symptoms like heart rhythm problems, shortness of breath, and other signs of worsening heart disease. That’s why it’s so important for you to keep your appointments and get your check-ups, Dr. Patel said. Your doctor will make sure you are taking the right medications correctly and that you are doing everything you can to prevent more serious heart problems. We are also starting to reschedule heart procedures and surgeries that were delayed or canceled due to COVID-19.
Virtual and In-Person Visits Available
Not every visit has to be in person. Duke is now offering phone and video visits to help you manage your heart disease. In-person visits may be necessary to obtain blood work, get physical exams, and to ensure you’re not progressing to heart failure or worsening heart conditions. If you do have to come in, Duke has made several changes to keep you safe and help you feel confident when visiting a clinic or hospital:
- All doctors and health care workers wear masks.
- All patients and visitors wear masks.
- Clinic visit times are spaced out to facilitate social distancing.
- We are conducting telephone screening before you come in for a visit.
- When possible, you will be registered by phone in your car before the visit.
- We keep you informed about everything you can expect before you arrive.
Talk to Your Cardiologist About Your Concerns
If you are worried because you heard about an issue with a medication you related to COVID-19, contact your doctor. Similarly, if you have heard that you may be at higher risk for the virus because of your heart disease, contact your doctor. We can maintain open lines of communication through MyChart and telehealth visits. “This will help protect you and our staff,” Dr. Patel said.
Take Care of Yourself at Home
You play a very important role in managing your heart disease and preventing it from worsening. We encourage and want you to continue to exercise, take your medications, and seek care when needed. “If you’re having any concerning heart symptoms -- chest symptoms, trouble breathing, weakness, confusion -- please let us know,” Dr. Patel stressed. “We are here to help you and make sure that you keep your heart healthy.”