With the COVID 19 outbreak negatively impacting healthcare access and mobility, the pandemic is exacerbating the already high burden of cardiovascular diseases in India. Doctors and healthcare experts are concerned that delayed diagnosis and interruptions in treatment are resulting in many preventable deaths and the worsening prognosis for patients.Also Read - ICC Men's U-19 Cricket World Cup 2022: India U-19 Captain Yash Dhull, Five Others Test Covid Positive, Says BCCI

As we observe World Heart Day, healthcare experts underline the need for ensuring continuity of treatment for heart patients and resorting to better lifestyle management to prevent disease-related complications. Also Read - Tillotama Shome Shares Picture of Armpit Hair to Slam Mainstream Beauty Standards, Fans Call Her Inspiring

Doctors say that acute and chronic cardiovascular disease care has decreased significantly due to reduced accessibility and patient fears during the pandemic. Also Read - What is Himalayan Red Buransh Flower And How Can it be Useful Against COVID?

“Heart disease has marginally increased by 10 to 20% compared to pre-COVID. But patients are not coming forward due to scare except in an emergency. So, there is a 25% decline in the number of patients reporting on time in Hospitals. More and more younger adults are getting symptomatic also. Evidently, people are postponing hospital visits until it is unavoidable. Disruptions in travel and transport have further prevented many people from smaller towns and rural areas from reaching hospitals for treatment. While there is no data or analysis to understand what is happening to these patients, many of them have not been able to receive medical care and treatment on time. In a nutshell, patients with cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and diabetes, etc. are experiencing delays in diagnosis and treatment, which in turn will significantly increase the burden of heart disease and preventable deaths,” said Dr. D K Jhamb, Director & HOD, Cardiology, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram.

Notably, heart disease is responsible for one in four deaths in India today with ischemic heart disease and stroke responsible for more than 80% of this burden. As many as 2.8 million Indians died due to heart disease in 2016[2]. Evidently, heart disease is a bigger pandemic than coronavirus and medical care for heart patients must not be sidelined at any cost.

“Due to the many constraints resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, many heart patients have had to postpone their follow up visits to their doctor. Importantly, advised elective cardiac procedures such as stenting, angiographies, etc. are suffering major delays, a cause of grave concern. This serious interruption in the continuum of care for heart patients can lead to severe criticalities and untimely deaths that could be prevented. During this time, the fatality rate in patients with cardiovascular diseases including heart failure also has been abnormally high at 10.5% as against 2.3% in the general population. Covid19 patients too are prone to cardiac complications such as arrhythmias and myocardial injury. We need to therefore ensure early resumption of continued and uninterrupted care for cardiac patients in healthcare settings, with adequate safeguards. It is equally important and critical at this juncture to exercise caution by maintaining a healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet and adequate physical activity, so risks can be minimized” said Dr. Gurpreet Sandhu, President, Council for Healthcare and Pharma, a not for profit Think Tank and Advocacy Group that advocates the development of sustainable healthcare systems around the world.

There are an estimated currently 79 million diabetes patients in India while another 200 million are hypertensive. Interruptions in diagnosis, treatment, and regular check-ups for these patients can further translate into a higher cardiovascular disease burden. Delaying or interrupting chronic disease treatment may cause permanent health damage and preventable deaths. This burden will easily exceed the impact of COVID 19 impact in terms of deaths.

“COVID-19 itself has been more dangerous for people with cardiovascular diseases as well as those with diabetes and hypertension. People with these underlying conditions are more likely to experience hospitalizations, complications as well as deaths from coronavirus infection. Fear of contracting the infection in health settings has prevented many people from continuing their treatments or routine check-ups. It is important that governments and healthcare organizations undertake calibrated measures to address people’s fears and ensure access to safe and uninterrupted non-COVID services,” added Dr. D K Jhamb, Director & HOD, Cardiology, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram.

At this juncture, the need for taking preventive action by adopting healthy lifestyles and diets becomes even more pronounced. All people (not just heart patients) must ensure the intake of a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean meats and sans junk food. At the same time, ensuring at least 30 minutes of daily physical exercise is a must for all.