JIS News

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica is urging Jamaicans to heed the warnings to get screened for heart disease, based on the adverse effects that COVID-19 could have on the organ.

Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’, today (January 20), Chairman and Consultant Cardiologist at the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, Dr. Andrene Chung, explained some of the findings from studies that have been done on COVID-19 and the human heart.

“We don’t understand all the mechanisms yet, but certainly, it seems that there is a direct invasion of the heart muscle by the virus, and in autopsies of people who have unfortunately died from COVID-19 infection, viral particles are found in the heart muscle,” she said.

The Consultant Cardiologist noted that the physical stress of the condition creates an increased demand on the heart and cardiovascular system and that this is enough to cause damage to the heart muscle.

“Also, we have found in COVID-19, that there’s a greatly increased risk of clotting in the blood vessels, and this, of course, can lead to blockage of blood vessels, and the classic type of heart attack that we see in patients otherwise,” the Chairman explained.

She further pointed out that people have been presenting (at health facilities) with increased risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and cardiomyopathy, which is a type of damage to the heart muscle.

Dr. Chung also warned that there has been an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with COVID-19 infection who don’t have heart disease.

“There are cardiac complications, which develop as a result of COVID-19,” she said. She noted that most persons with COVID-19 infection, who become seriously ill or die, had some element of cardiac disease.

The Chairman indicated that COVID-19 is of particular interest to the Foundation, “not only because we have been affected by all the economic, financial and social restrictions, but also because COVID-19 has this particular impact in people with heart disease.”

She said that one of the main messages from the Foundation for Heart Month (February) and throughout the year is “continue following up your medical conditions, continue screening for heart disease and the risk factors for heart disease.”

Dr. Chung pointed out that the people who are most at risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 are the elderly (persons 65 years and over) and that these are patients who will also tend to have most of the chronic illnesses.

She identified specific high-risk groups, which include people who have established heart disease – who have had heart attacks or heart failure; people with hypertension and diabetes; people who are immunosuppressed (such as cancer patients who are getting chemotherapy) and people who are obese.

These groups of persons, the Consultant Cardiologist pointed out, also seem to have an increased risk of having serious disease or death with COVID-19.

“If they do get it, then they don’t do as well as people who don’t have these conditions, so it’s important to make sure that we tell patients to screen, to continue to follow up, to take their medication and come to the Heart Foundation of Jamaica where we do all of these things. It is important to maintain your heart health, so that if you do get COVID-19, you will survive,” she said.

Every year in February, the Foundation joins other major organisations around the world which are interested in heart health and heart disease to observe Heart Month.

The theme for Heart Month 2021 is: ‘COVID and Heart Disease’, in recognition of the pandemic and its effect on the heart.

The mission of the Foundation is to reduce the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, which are ailments of the heart and blood vessels.

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