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The Covid-19 pandemic is being caused by a single strand positive polarity RNA virus named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 or SARS CoV-2. The official name was given on February 11, 2020 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, and this was announced by the World Health Organisation the same day.
Almost 200 million cases have become infected by SARS CoV-2, and there have been more than 4 million deaths by this virus. India currently carries a burden of 32 million cases with 425,000 deaths.
Increased risk of acute myocardial infarction and stroke with flu, pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and other chest infections is already known against this background. Swedish investigators investigated the association, if any, with Covid-19 and myocardial infarction or stroke. They looked at data from their registers for 86,742 Covid-19 patients.
The risk of acute myocardial infarction was about three times higher in the first week after Covid-19, and 2.5 times in the second week. The risk of ischaemic stroke was similarly increased by three times in the first week following Covid-19, and by 2.6 times in the second week.
The higher risks of acute myocardial infarction and ischaemic stroke associated with Covid-19 infection are best explained by direct effects of the virus on endothelial cells and also the heightened inflammatory response that leads to greater coagulability of blood accompanied by exaggerated clumping of platelets. Long-term effects on the cardiovascular system remain to be ascertained.
1. Firstly one must avoid infection by SARS CoV-2. This is best done by wearing a mask, maintaining distance, and ensuring proper etiquette during coughing or sneezing. Hand washing will also help. Vaccines have been found to be effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death.
2. Along with the above, adopt lifestyle changes to prevent cardiovascular disease. Firstly, some form of exercise for as little as 20 minutes in a day will go a long way in reducing weight, lowering blood pressure and blood sugar. This could be in the form of a brisk walk, a jog or even a game of badminton. Exercise becomes of paramount importance amid frequent lockdowns that corral up the public.
3. Blood pressure must be kept in check and optimal blood sugar should be maintained if a person is suffering from diabetes. A healthy (low-oil, largely vegetarian) diet cannot be overemphasized. Also, it is imperative that if symptoms of chest discomfort, palpitations, or breathlessness develop, a doctor is speedily consulted.
4. An acute heart attack, if not treated quickly, can be catastrophic. Nearly 25% of acute heart attack patients die within 30 minutes of onset. A sedentary lifestyle coupled with the fear of visiting a hospital despite symptoms, shall most certainly amplify problems of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.