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Infectious Diseases

Updated 09 April 2020

Why heart patients need to be wary of coronavirus

Are seniors with coronary heart disease or high blood pressure more susceptible to the coronavirus and at higher risk of developing severe symptoms?

People with high blood pressure and heart disease may be vulnerable to complications from the new coronavirus, heart experts say.

Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Based on current knowledge, seniors "with coronary heart disease or high blood pressure may be more susceptible to the coronavirus and more likely to develop more severe symptoms. That means it's vital to follow guidance about keeping other conditions well-controlled and maintaining good health and hygiene," the AHA said in a news release.

Data from Wuhan, China, show a 10.5% death rate among people with Covid-19 who also have heart disease, 7.3% among those with diabetes, 6.3% among those with respiratory disease and 6% for those with high blood pressure.

Keep on taking your meds

Some people wonder if blood pressure or heart medications could make people with Covid-19 sicker, so the AHA, Heart Failure Society of America and American College of Cardiology recently issued guidelines.

Don't stop taking prescribed angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARB) medications for high blood pressure, heart failure or heart disease, the guidelines said.

These medications don't increase the risk of contracting Covid-19 and are crucial in maintaining blood pressure levels to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and worsening heart disease.

Heart disease patients with Covid-19 should be evaluated by their health care provider before stopping or adding medications, the guidelines added. Any changes to medication should be based on the latest scientific evidence and shared decision-making.

Some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and supplements can raise blood pressure, including common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) pain medicines, such as naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and also decongestants.

People with heart problems should avoid or limit use of these drugs, especially if their blood pressure is uncontrolled. OTC drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) are less likely to increase blood pressure. Ask your doctor about OTC medicines.

Home remedies might not be safe

People taking prescription medications for mental health, corticosteroids, birth control pills, immunosuppressants and some cancer medications should monitor their blood pressure to make sure it's under control, the AHA advises.

Too much alcohol and caffeine can boost blood pressure, and people with high blood pressure should avoid or limit their intake of both.

Some so-called natural supplements and home remedies might not be safe. For example, liquorice herbal supplements can raise blood pressure, the group said.

The AHA also recommends that people with high blood pressure and heart disease have enough prescription medications to last for a prolonged period, or see if they can get a larger supply than normal.

Mail-order may be available for people who can't or don't want to leave home to get their medications.

It's also important to keep follow-up medical appointments. Some doctors' offices offer virtual visits when feasible.

READ | How does a severe coronavirus infection possibly injure the heart?

READ | Medical groups say heart meds don't worsen new coronavirus symptoms

READ | Certain health conditions increase risks for severe coronavirus cases

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