According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cardiovascular diseases take the lives of 17.9 million people every year, which is 31% of all the global deaths. The WHO also states that India accounts for one-fifth of the total deaths occurring from stroke and ischaemic heart disease, especially in young adults.
Today, CVD is a leading cause of mortality in India. In the coming years, CVDs are also expected to continue posing a significant economic and social burden in India. In India, nearly 3 million people die of stroke and heart attack every year. The number of deaths caused due to heart-related ailments has seen a spike of 34% over the last 26 years. Nearly 40% of people who have suffered a heart attack are below the age of 55 and compared to western countries, the age of onset for CVDs among Indians is almost 10 years earlier. This rising trend of CVDs among youth can be attributed to a variety of factors such as diabetes, smoking, alcohol intake and drug abuse, in addition to inadequate sleep, excessive stress, unsafe and unnecessary supplements and over-exercise among others.
Impact of COVID-19 on Cardiac Care
Cardiovascular care has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been a number of risks associated with the lockdown and restricted movement, including the rise of sedentary lifestyles among many. Further, the pandemic has increased the reluctance among patients towards preventive health check-ups – especially because it involves visiting physicians and diagnostic centres. For patients already suffering from CVDs, this reluctance translates into further health complications. In addition, on account of the ill-effects of the SARS-CoV-2 on a patient’s body, the number of consultations for post-Covid-19 cardiac complications has been increasing.
How does COVID-19 affect the heart?
The coronavirus can cause direct and indirect damage to the heart and blood vessels. This leads to the inflammation of the muscle cells of the heart (myocarditis) which in turn leads to ineffective pumping of the heart (heart failure).
On the vessels, the effects are seen in the veins. SARS-CoV-2 can, through various steps and mechanisms (including the much talked-about “cytokine storm”), trigger an increase in the clotting of the leading to what is called Venous Thrombosis. While this in itself is a problem and needs to be corrected, but it can lead to even more serious complications due to a part of the clot breaking-off (embolus) and travelling in other parts of the body and blocking in smaller blood vessels in those organs.
Finally, the indirect harmful effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic has come on in the form of the altered life-style characterized by (a) greater sedentary life-style, (b) greater dietary indiscretions, (c) financial stress, and (d) improper sleep habits. All these factors, collectively, increase the predisposition to cardiac disease. Of course, people who have dealt with these life-styles anomalies have reduced the risk to the cardiovascular system.
Finally, SARS-CoV-2 has also impacted hearts of patients with no pre-existing cardiac conditions.
However, there is no reason to panic. It should be noted that the sooner one visits one’s doctor, the faster will be the recovery and lesser will be the damage to the heart. So TIMELY ACTION is the New Cardiac Mantra … TIMELY visit to the doctor, TIMELY check-ups and TIMELY intervention.
Many healthcare companies are leveraging technology to bring effective cardiac treatment right at the patient’s home. By facilitating remote and safe consultations, doctors are able to answer to a multitude of queries about potential CVDs, provide a long-term prognosis, explain the symptoms, potential treatment and help patients take better care. Companies are also using artificial intelligence to process patient data and answer patients queries. For example, a leading pharmaceutical company, Lupin launched its chatbot “Anya” capable of addressing health queries with medically verified information.
Dr. Amit Bhargava, Vice President and Head, Medical Services at Lupin Ltd.
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