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COVID-19 Risks for People with Heart Disease and Diabetes

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a highly infectious respiratory illness that has caused global lockdowns, hospitalizations, deaths and economic uncertainty. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and those who have serious pre-existing medical conditions, regardless of age, may be at higher risk of being infected and developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

If you have heart disease and/or diabetes, know how to minimize your risks.

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For People with Heart Disease

What are the Risks?

Stroke survivors and people with heart disease, such as congenital heart defects and high blood pressure, may have a weaker immune system. This is why the coronavirus is likely to stick around with them, potentially exacerbating pre-existing conditions which may cause further complications.

Individuals with cardiomyopathy, congenital cyanotic heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and advanced forms of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy may be at highest risk for COVID-19. Meanwhile, the virus may cause a “special risk” for people who have plaque or fatty buildup in their arteries.

The virus may also trigger irregular heartbeat in some individuals. If you have a pre-existing heart arrhythmia and are experiencing severe chest discomfort, please seek medical assistance immediately.

How to Lower Your Risk of COVID-19

The CDC consistently reminds us to frequently wash our hands, practice social distancing, eat healthy, have enough sleep, exercise and disinfect regularly. On top of this, if you have heart disease, you must also:

  • Continuously take your medications as prescribed. Stock up on at least a two-week supply of your prescription and non-prescription medications. If your drugstore runs out of supply, do not take any alternatives without consulting your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor about vaccinations. Since heart disease can compromise your immune system, most doctors recommend influenza and pneumococcal vaccines.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible. Remember that the best way to lower your risk is to avoid exposure by staying at home.
  • If you are an essential worker or need to go out, be extra careful when leaving home. Don’t forget to wear a mask when you’re in areas that may seem hard to practice social distancing. Avoid handshaking with people and touching public surfaces. If you accidentally do, wash your hands or sanitize as soon as possible.
  • For worsening heart symptoms, seek care immediately. Do not delay getting emergency care if you think you may be having a heart attack or experience chest pains. Our hospital follows CDC safety and infection prevention guidelines to protect you from COVID-19. Call 911 in case of emergency.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor through telehealth. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you have questions or concerns. Tell your doctor as well if you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

For People with Diabetes

What are the Risks?

Just like those with heart disease, people with diabetes may have a compromised immune system because their sugar levels are consistently elevating or fluctuating. This also puts them at greater risk of severe symptoms and complications.

According to the American Diabetes Association, viral infections may increase inflammation or internal swelling, both of which may also contribute to severe COVID-19 complications in people with diabetes. The main cause points back to elevated blood sugars.

When infected with COVID-19, people with type 1 diabetes may be at greater risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This condition occurs when the body starts breaking down fats at an increased rate, making it hard for you to manage your electrolyte levels and fluid intake.

Some of its symptoms include frequent urination, dry mouth and skin, extreme thirst, high blood sugar levels, nausea or vomiting and rapid breathing. If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms, please call your doctor immediately.

How to Lower Your Risk of COVID-19

As mentioned above, frequent handwashing, social distancing, eating healthy, exercising, having enough sleep and disinfecting regularly can help us avoid COVID-19. At the same time, people with diabetes must follow these tips to lower their risks:

  • Take your insulin and diabetes medications as prescribed. If you run out of supplies or they become unavailable, talk to your doctor for possible alternatives.
  • Monitor and manage blood sugar levels as recommended by your doctor. Test your blood sugar levels at intervals recommended by your doctor, and take note of the results for monitoring purposes. Avoid sugary food and drinks and make sure to exercise regularly.
  • Avoid stress. Although feeling stressed or a bit worried is understandable at this point, stress can take a toll on your insulin levels. If you catch yourself stressing or worrying about things, try to calm yourself down through meditating, listening to music, reading a book, doing yoga, doing something you enjoy, etc.
  • Ask your doctor about available vaccinations. People with diabetes tend to have compromised immune systems. This is why it’s recommended for you to receive influenza and pneumococcal vaccines.
  • As much as possible, stay indoors. You can limit your exposure to COVID-19 by staying at home.
  • Be extra careful if you need to go out. Whether you’re an essential worker or you just need to go to the grocery store, don’t forget to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Do not touch public surfaces and avoid handshaking. Wash your hands or sanitize immediately if you accidentally do so.
  • Schedule regular appointments with your doctor. Telehealth may be available for many doctors. Contact your physician if you have health concerns or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Call 911 in case of emergency. Don’t hesitate to go to the hospital during emergency situations. Our hospitals follow CDC safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe, usually appearing two to 14 days after exposure. CDC says that the common symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath. In addition, severe symptoms include persistent chest pain, bluish lips or face and breathing difficulties.

If you have heart disease or diabetes, you may lower your risk of getting infected and developing symptoms by strictly following the preventive guidelines mentioned above, and by cooperating with your doctor. Take care and stay safe.

The symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe, usually appearing two to 14 days after exposure. CDC says that the common symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath. In addition, severe symptoms include persistent chest pain, bluish lips or face and breathing difficulties.

If you have heart disease or diabetes, you may lower your risk of getting infected and developing symptoms by strictly following the preventive guidelines mentioned above, and by cooperating with your doctor. Take care and stay safe.

If you believe that you may have COVID-19, take our assessment to help you determine next steps. Click the orange button on this page to start your assessment.

Sources:
American Heart Association
American Diabetes Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthline
U.S. News
World Health Organization

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