The Importance of Social Distancing and Wearing a Mask When You Have Heart Disease

Senior couple wearing masks and demonstrating social distancing.

By now, you are probably familiar with pandemic safety guidelines. Maintain a six-foot distance from other people, wash your hands, wear a mask – the list goes on. But did you know these measures are even more important for patients with heart disease? Here, Myocarditis Foundation explains the relationship between heart disease, social distancing, wearing a mask, and other precautions, as well as why patients with heart disease should be even more careful.

COVID-19 and the Heart

Researchers are still unpacking the many ways COVID-19 affects the body. More and more evidence, however, indicates the novel coronavirus goes beyond the lungs. Virus particles attack throughout the bloodstream, causing inflammation everywhere – including in the heart. Meanwhile, respiratory issues force the heart to work harder to keep the body oxygenated. Putting a weakened muscle under stress often leads to cardiac injury and long-term damage.

Heart and blood vessel damage are dangerous even on a healthy individual. When patients have a pre-existing heart condition, however, COVID-19 becomes even more dangerous. Unhealthy hearts weaken quickly and are less able to handle the stress. They will also be slower to recover, even after the virus has left the system. At best, the virus exacerbates existing conditions in the long term. At worst, the combination is a recipe for heart failure.

Compromised Immune Systems

Not only is COVID-19 more dangerous to those with heart disease, but sick individuals are more likely to catch it. The immune system is a collection of organs responsible for fighting infections. In many cases, this system can destroy viral particles before the patient ever experiences a symptom. Immune systems have their limits, however. When the body is already focused on fighting one disease, it has very few resources left to combat something new. Heart disease may also weaken other organs throughout the body, including those connected to the immune system, leading to the body losing its ability to fight infection effectively. This reduced response puts heart disease patients at greater risk of complications from COVID-19 infection.

How to Stay Safe

Heart disease patients face more risk from COVID-19 than healthy individuals – but how can they stay safe? Luckily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued advice on avoiding infection during the pandemic. Recommended measures include:

  • Stay home and shelter in place when possible.
  • If you must leave home, maintain six-foot social distancing at all times.
  • Avoid hugging, handshaking, and other forms of close contact – even with loved ones.
  • Maintain healthy habits, including a healthy diet, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and taking all your medications as prescribed.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.
  • Wear a cloth mask whenever you are out in public.

Learn More about Heart Disease and the Pandemic

Pandemic safety measures are important for everyone, especially for patients with heart disease. If you do get sick, don’t panic. Contact your physician’s office by phone or telemedicine appointment to discuss your symptoms. To learn more about the link between heart disease, social distancing, and wearing a mask, among other precautions, contact Myocarditis Foundation today.