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Coronavirus precautions for patients, others facing higher risks

It’s important to be safe, careful and informed during the COVID-19 pandemic – and to keep your health in mind. Here is helpful information from trustworthy sources.


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SanchezLea en español

Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, the American Heart Association’s Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, shares advice and resources for patients and others concerned about the coronavirus.

The American Heart Association is advising caution and preparation for elderly people with coronary heart disease or hypertension because it appears they may be more likely than others to be infected by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and to develop more severe symptoms. Others with heart disease are also among those facing a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, and people who have survived a stroke may face a higher risk of complications.

As a result, people who have heart disease or another underlying condition should stay home to limit their risk of contracting the virus.

The overall risk of getting this virus is still low for most people in the United States, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk is expected to increase. The CDC has confirmed 33,404 U.S. cases and 400 deaths as of Sunday, twice as many cases and deaths since March 19. Over 290,000 people worldwide have coronavirus – more than half of them in Europe, according to the latest data – and nearly 13,000 have died, the World Health Organization reported Sunday.

For most patients with heart disease, prevention is key. Your risk is not higher for getting COVID-19 as a patient, but if you do get it you have a higher chance of complications. Others facing this higher risk include people 60 and over, pregnant women, young children, people with diabetes, those with serious chronic lung and kidney conditions, and people with compromised immune systems. As mentioned, stroke survivors may also have a higher risk of complications.

The first cautionary step is to remember the basics in your everyday activities: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue away – or cough or sneeze into your long sleeve at the elbow fold – stay home from work if you’re sick or at increased risk, avoid touching surfaces in public, try not to touch your face, and avoid people who seem visibly sick. Also practice social distancing when in public or in any gatherings: Try to maintain a 6-foot perimeter around you.

If there is an active virus in your area, consider totally avoiding crowded places or situations. If there isn’t an active virus near you, factor in your personal health status when considering whether to go someplace where there are many people.

On March 16 the White House announced a program called “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” which is a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 through the implementation of social distancing throughout society. It recommends avoiding social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.

Get prepared at homeThink about how you would manage your condition if for some reason you were advised to stay home for an extended time because of coronavirus. These tips can help you prepare for such a situation:

  • Make sure you can reach your doctor quickly. Gather contact information for your health care providers and store in an easy-to-locate place. Get office phone numbers, emergency numbers and email addresses. And check to see whether electronic consulting or instant messaging options are available.
  • If you live alone, gather a list of support contacts who you might call on if needed, such as friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbors. Keep this contact information all together in one easy-to-find place as well.
  • Take stock of your medications. Make sure you have enough for an extended time. Also figure out how you would get refills if you couldn’t leave home. Find out if your pharmacy can deliver refills. Your health care provider or health plan may help advise you here as well.
  • Take stock of food, beverage and hygiene supplies for yourself, your family and your pets.