Many genetic heart disease patients have been asking about what they should do with respect to the coronavirus pandemic, and should they do anything extra given they have a genetic heart disease. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The advice for people with genetic heart disease is very similar to that of the general population:
- All patients should follow government recommendations to help minimise exposure and prevent infection (e.g. social distancing, hand washing)
- All patients should continue to take their cardiac medications including beta-blockers, calcium-channel blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, and blood thinning agents.
- All patients should have their annual influenza vaccination to reduce the chance of having influenza and COVID-19 infection at the same time.
- In patients with cardiomyopathy, those with severe “pump” or heart failure may be at higher risk, and therefore should take great efforts to minimise risk of exposure to COVID-19 (e.g. by adopting self-isolation).
- If in doubt about your own circumstances about your condition, seek medical advice from your GP or cardiologist.
Coping with stress and worry related to COVID-19:
- It’s a normal reaction to feel stressed, anxious, frustrated, sad, and angry during a crisis. It’s important that as we follow the advice being given we look after both our physical and emotional health.
Strategies to help manage stress and enhance coping during COVID-19:
- Take reasonable precautions (hand washing; cough/ sneeze into elbow; avoid touching eyes/nose/mouth; social distancing)
- Create a daily routine including: healthy eating habits, sleep routine (maintain regular sleep and wake time), regular exercise
- Avoid / reduce alcohol use
- Structure the day and include enjoyable activities (e.g. reading; music; games; puzzles; TV; cooking /baking; time with pets; learning something new online etc.)
- Talk to loved ones / friends/ colleagues about worries and concerns
- Stay socially connected while maintaining physical distance (e.g. phone calls, messages, skype, teleconference, time with others in the home etc.)
- Limit exposure to media: choose times that you will engage in news from trusted media outlets however limit the urge to keep checking as it can increase levels of distress.
- Be prepared: create a plan in the household should any person need to self-isolate at any time
- Try to be compassionate and kind to yourself and others
Mental health support
Seek additional support when needed:
- Speak to your GP about a referral to a psychologist / Counsellor
- Call / Online chat services offered by Beyond Blue or Lifeline 24/7
Helpful websites to explore for info, resources and support on coping with COVID-19:
Australian Psychological Society: https://www.psychology.org.au/COVID-19-Australians
Black Dog Institute: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
Other helpful links:
Consensus statement for patients with Genetic Heart Disease and
Covid-19 – Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ)
Recent “Q and A Session” on COVID-19 and inherited heart diseases where Prof Chris Semsarian was interviewed by Dr Mike Ackerman from the Mayo Clinic, USA.
Remember if you’re in doubt or have any questions regarding the specific circumstances of your condition, please contact your GP or your regular cardiologist.