Taking Care of Hearts in the COVID-19 Era

While COVID-19 continues to reinforce the need for everyone to be on-the-fly, life-long learners, health experts agree on a few things: the 3 Ws - wear a mask; wash your hands; watch your distance – work to reduce the infection risk.

As in-person clinic visits and life-saving procedures return to pre-March-closure levels, the cardiology team is seeing that health care workers and patients are staying healthy by following these Kwan S. Lee, MD protective guidelines. “It’s important for people to continue to take their prescribed medications, maintain follow-up appointments and not be afraid to get necessary care,” said Kwan Lee, MD, associate professor of medicine and associate chief of cardiology.

Cardiac Arrests Have Increased

Face Masks save lives The fear factor has cost lives in Arizona. The Arizona Department of Health Services recently sent a news release encouraging people to obtain routine and emergency health care as needed. ADHS said, “Through July 2020, nearly 1,800 more Arizonans suffered a cardiac arrest compared to 2018, with 10% fewer people transported to the hospital and 10% more people dying from heart attacks. Arizonans should seek emergency care if they are suffering symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.”  

“This information amplifies the need for everyone to know how to respond in case of sudden cardiac arrest. During the Karl B. Kern, MD COVID-19 pandemic, it's natural to question whether to respond, but don’t let fear keep you from saving a life,” said Karl B. Kern, MD, professor of medicine and an internationally renowned CPR expert.

American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, published a study indicating the risk of contracting the virus while doing chest-compression-only CPR is low. Most out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the home or in long-term care facilities, with only 18.8 percent happening in public, according to the AHA. So, most likely a rescuer will be helping a family member or friend. If a bystander is wearing a mask and sees a stranger collapse suddenly, doing chest-compression-only CPR most likely is low risk, particularly if the victim also is wearing a mask or the rescuer could cover the victim's face with a cloth or shirt. 

Visit the Sarver Heart Center “Learn CPR” webpage for chest-compression-only CPR training resources.  Student volunteers from University of Arizona and College of Medicine – Tucson are planning to offer virtual CCO-CPR trainings. If you would like to schedule a training for a class or group that meets via Zoom, please email kmaass@shc.arizona.edu (We’ll learn how to do this together.)

To Your Health

Dr. Lee offered this checklist for heart care:

  • Wash hands, at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching public surfaces, your face and eyes
  • Socially distance
  • Wear a face covering in public
  • High-risk patients should avoid contact with children under 18 years
  • Despite theoretical concern, do not stop heart medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor and an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) 
  • Exercise, sleep well, manage stress, eat well
  • Get a flu shot
  • Keep up with your cardiac follow-up care: in-person or telehealth
  • If you have concerning symptoms, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical attention