As hospitals, healthcare systems, and healthcare providers strive to reduce the spread of coronavirus, the American Heart Association (AHA) offers tips for heart attack and stroke survivors for secondary prevention during this difficult time.
Based on current information about the COVID-19 virus, it appears that elderly people with coronary heart disease or hypertension are more likely to be infected and develop severe symptoms. Stroke survivors may face increased risk for complications if they develop COVID-19. Staying as healthy as possible by avoiding exposure to the virus through social distancing, respiratory hygiene, and hand washing is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Similarly, staying healthy with secondary stroke prevention allows people to stay in their homes, preventing infection and lessening health care resource utilization that could otherwise occur.
- Patients should consider taking these steps from the AHA secondary prevention program:
- Take medications as prescribed. If a person doesn’t have enough of their prescription medications for a prolonged period, they should work with their doctor and pharmacist to have a larger amount prescribed. To avoid possible exposure to COVID-19, consider using a mail-order system.
- Manage risk factors. Patients should be advised that, as always, it’s important to manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes by taking medications as prescribed, quitting smoking, eating as healthy as possible, and being active.
- Consider virtual visits. Keeping follow-up appointments helps doctors monitor patients’ condition and recovery, and during this time, patients should contact their doctor to find out if a virtual visit is possible.
- Participate in a virtual cardiac rehabilitation program. Patients should ask their healthcare provider about exercise programs that can be done at home.
- Get support. It’s normal to feel anxious or confused after a heart attack or stroke, and the current situation can make it even more stressful. Getting support from loved ones or people who have had a coronary event can help. During this time, when many local support group meetings are canceled, patients can connect with other survivors and caregivers through the AHA free online Support Network.
“A heart attack or stroke is a life-changing event,” said Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director, NYU Women’s Heart Program. “What many people don’t realize is the hidden risks that led to your first event may be managed and, by doing this, you may reduce your risk of having another one.”