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World Heart Day 2020: what you need to know about cardiovascular disease in COVID-19 times

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Individuals and governments are urged to #useheart to fight cardiovascular disease during the pandemic.

World Heart Day is an initiative of the World Heart Federation (WHF) launched in 2000 to coincide with the Olympic Games in Sydney. Celebrated annually on 29 September, it's today seen as the world's most effective campaign against cardiovascular disease.

The theme for World Heart Day in 2020 is #UseHeart to Beat Cardiovascular Disease. The WHF explains that taking care of one's heart right now is more important than ever in these "unprecedented times".

Through the campaign it is asking individuals, governments and communities to use head, influence and compassion to beat cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease in numbers

According to the WHO, cardiovascular diseases take the lives of 17.9 million people every year, 31 percent of all global deaths. Triggering these diseases are tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol.

These in turn show up in people as raised blood pressure, elevated blood glucose and overweight and obesity, risks detrimental to good heart health.

Men are more proportionally affected

In a Patient Talk podcast recently on men's health issues including diabetes and heart disease, Dr Ali Razzak revealed that while cardiovascular disease accounts for 30 percent of mortality worldwide, in the UAE it’s around 40 percent.

Within that men are more proportionally affected than women. He attributed this to factors such as rapid modernisation, less physical activity and a less healthy diet.   

Women have unique risk factors

A Cleveland Clinic specialist meanwhile - Leslie Cho, M.D. of Women's Cardiovascular Center - said that women have unique risk factors for heart disease that need to be taken into account in prevention and treatment strategies.

She explained that some conditions specific to women, such as endometriosis, have been found to raise the risk of developing coronary artery disease by 400 percent in women under 40.

Maintaining good heart health through exercise and monitoring

Many studies have linked higher resting heart rates with lower physical fitness, as well as higher blood pressure and body weight.

Increasing aerobic fitness is therefore an essential part of building a healthy heart. The more one exercises, the more they will be able to lower their resting heart rate, helping lungs and heart become stronger while also considerably reducing stress for a better life balance.

Heart rate monitoring should also be important to everyone, regardless of age or physical condition.

Monitoring is a growing trend among heart patients, too. Dr Curtis Rimmerman, cardiologist and Chair of International Operations at Cleveland Clinic, revealed in an interview recently that heart outpatients are now being monitored live and remotely via computer from the comfort of their own surroundings, resulting in less invasive surgery and faster recovery times.

Cardiovascular disease and COVID-19

The WHF has embarked on a global study which aims to better describe cardiovascular outcomes and identify risk factors associated with severe complications and death in hospitalised patients with COVID-19. It is expected to publish preliminary data in late 2020.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine revealed cardiovascular complications of COVID-19 that include acute myocardial injury in 12% to 28%, arrhythmias in 7 percent to 17 percent, and heart failure in about 20 percent, although whether they were caused by or exacerbated by COVID-19 remains unclear. Nevertheless, heart patients with a history of cardiovascular disease are at particularly high risk of adverse outcomes.

A webinar from Roche Diagnostics Middle East FZCO shed light on how cardiac involvement due to acute myocarditis may occur in patients with COVID-19 without respiratory tract signs and symptoms of infection.

Mayo Clinic highlighted that some of the medications being used to treat COVID-19 are known to cause drug-induced prolongation of the QTc in some - an indicator of the health of the heart's electrical recharging system.

Patients with a dangerously prolonged QTc are at increased risk for potentially life-threatening ventricular rhythm abnormalities that can culminate in sudden cardiac death.

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