Learn more about COVID-19 and the heart in this American Hospital Association video produced with Yale New Haven Heart and Vascular Center cardiologists Nihar Desai, MD, and Victor Mejia, MD. For physician referrals, call Yale New Haven Health physician referral service, 833-346-3637, or use our Find a Doctor tool.

How does the virus affect those with heart conditions?

Coronavirus (or COVID-19) is an illness caused by a virus that can cause a range of symptoms from mild to severe illness. Heart and Vascular Center cardiologist Nihar Desai, MD, explains the impact this virus may have on the heart.

How are patients with heart disease affected by COVID-19?
Patients who have cardiovascular disease, heart failure, coronary disease or cardiovascular risk factors tend to have a more difficult time with the COVID-19 virus and are at higher risk for having serious complications. If a patient with COVID-19 gets sicker, the heart is one of the main organs that can be affected. COVID can affect the body in many ways, which may include causing the heart muscle to weaken or provoking a heart attack.

Might having high blood pressure also impact the heart if one has COVID-19?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is incredibly common, particularly in more elderly patients. We have learned that older patients and those with cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, have a tougher time fighting this infection. This also raises the importance of ensuring good control of your blood pressure if you have hypertension – the importance of monitoring your blood pressure, taking your medications as prescribed, and following up with your health care team. 

If someone has heart disease, what are steps one can take to help minimize contracting COVID-19?
Along with hand hygiene, wearing a mask and social distancing, it is important to see your doctor and continue to take prescribed medications so risk factors are controlled. It is also important to receive your annual flu vaccine to protect and decrease risk of illness.

Can COVID-19 have long-term effects on the heart?
Even after recovery from the virus, there can be long-term presence of the virus in the heart. This can cause inflammation in the heart. People with heart disease who have had the virus need very close follow-up care so the heart can be monitored for any signs of weakness of the muscle or other abnormalities that may develop.

Is it safe to visit the emergency room if experiencing heart attack or stroke symptoms?
Yes. If you are in need of emergency care, do not avoid coming to the hospital. It is important for you to seek medical care. Throughout Yale New Haven Health we have additional policies and procedures to keep our patients and staff safe. While this is a time of great concern, if you are not feeling well it is important to contact your medical providers. If it is an urgent matter, you should visit the Emergency Room immediately and get evaluated. We have taken extraordinary measures to keep our patients and our staff safe during this challenging time.

What are some symptoms of a healthcare emergency like heart attack or stroke for which someone should be seen in an emergency room?
If a patient is experiencing chest pain, chest tightness or difficulty breathing among other symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention. Individuals with a heart attack may have different symptoms and if you have any concerns, it is best to discuss with a medical professional right away.