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Heart health and COVID-19

Heart failure, heart health ( film x-ray chest PA upright : show cardiomegaly and interstitial infiltrate both lung ) Image credit: Puwadol Jaturawutthichai / 123rf
Image credit: Puwadol Jaturawutthichai / 123rf

Heart health is a matter of mounting public concern – including in India. The country’s escalating heart health crisis has, for some time, been an issue that is imperative for the health system to address. However, this may not be the case.

In 2016, heart disease acted as the country’s leading cause of death. Heart disease – and noncommunicable diseases to a broader extent – eclipsed infectious diseases as the country’s biggest killer, accounting that year for 28.1 percent of deaths. As my colleague Nicholas Parry wrote

“Previously, the list of most common causes of death in India was dominated by infectious disease. Growing public knowledge and better prevention tactics have allowed for reductions of many infectious diseases in India. Treatments have also improved in recent years. While communicable diseases have seen a reduction, lifestyle changes and poor dietary habits have seen non-communicable diseases (NCDs) vastly rise in prevalence. In terms of disease burden, NCDs have risen to 55 percent of all disease cases, up from 30 percent in 1990.”

Indeed, in 2019, a fifty percent rise in heart disease cases was announced as having been recorded during the preceding 25 years. These statistics point to a problem that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. Researchers recently found that infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or simply coronavirus – which causes COVID-19 can have, as Health Issues India reported, potentially lasting impacts on heart health such as inflammation and injury. 

We quoted comments made to The Wall Street Journal by Charles Murry, director of the University of Washington’s Center for Cardiovascular Biology, who said “we basically die with the heart-muscle cells we’re born with, so anything that results in the death of heart muscle has the potential to irreversibly damage the heart’s mechanical ability and the heart’s electrical function.” Murray did note also that “more research, including studies in patients, needs to be done before scientists can reach any conclusions.”

Heart health is vital. The heartbeat is often referred to as our vital sign. It follows, then, that the heartbeat is a vital sign of the strength of the public health system. This being World Health Day, let us not take the gravity of the consequences of preserving heart health lightly. 

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