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Heart health may be taking a back seat to COVID-19

Written By: Caliann Ferguson | Updated: September 1, 2020
senior patient with doctor

A geriatric medicine expert breaks down what senior citizens need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be the lead story in health headlines right now, but it doesn’t mean those with heart conditions should put off going to a doctor, or seeking medical attention for an emergency.

Mohammad Madjid, M.D.
Mohammad Madjid, MD, MS, FACC

“Regardless of the pandemic, the risks of heart disease are ever-present and need to be addressed,” said Mohammad Madjid, MD, MS, FACC, cardiologist with UT Physicians and an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Avoiding proper treatment for these health issues can lead to a myriad of other health conditions and even death, which is why we encourage patients to seek the care they need before it’s too late.”

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States and occur when there is a sudden disruption in the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart, enabling it to pump. When that blood flow becomes compromised, the heart ceases to function correctly.

“A patient has between two to three hours to seek treatment; otherwise, the heart will have little chance to recover if care is delayed,” said Richard Smalling, MD, PhD.

Smalling is the James D. Woods Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine, and professor and director of Interventional Cardiovascular Medicine at McGovern Medical School.

“With early treatment and restoration of oxygen-rich blood flow to the damaged heart muscle, we can recover the heart muscle function, allowing patients a better chance of surviving and returning to their normal activities after their heart attack,” he said.

Patients may think they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including shortness of breath, which can resemble and sometimes even mask a range of heart complications such as a heart attack. What’s more, a diagnosis of COVID-19 can make existing heart conditions worse.

“Severe chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain radiating in the arm, neck, or back can all be signs of a heart attack, which can also be accelerated by a COVID-19 diagnosis,” said Viacheslav Bobovnikov, MD, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at McGovern Medical School. “Especially if the COVID infection becomes complicated by thrombosis (blood clots) of the small vessels,” he said.

The stress of current events can have an adverse impact on cardiovascular health, so it is imperative to properly prevent, manage, and detect heart conditions as we continue to grapple with the rippling effects of COVID-19.

If there is a concern about your heart health, we invite you to make an in-person or telehealth appointment today.

For more resources about the coronavirus, visit our information center.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.