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New MJA statement: People with heart disease at higher risk of severe COVID-19 complications
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

New MJA statement: People with heart disease at higher risk of severe COVID-19 complications

Media Release - 5 April 2020

Australians with heart disease have a higher chance of severe illness, needing intensive care or dying if infected by COVID-19, according to a new consensus statement published by the Medical Journal of Australia.

COVID-19 infection may also worsen existing heart conditions, such as heart failure, and could increase your risk of a heart attack.

The statement coincides with the launch today of a new national Heart Foundation campaign to inform Australians affected by heart disease about their increased risk of complications from COVID-19.

In addition to good hygiene and social distancing, the campaign advises people to maintain their current treatment and medication plan; get the flu vaccine; stay physically active and eat healthily; and seek medical help if their heart condition becomes severe or worsens quickly.

The consensus statement is the first of its kind to be released in Australia. It was developed by cardiac experts from all over Australia and New Zealand, including the Heart Foundation’s Chief Medical Advisor and cardiologist, Professor Garry Jennings.

“The reasons for the link between heart disease and COVID-19 are still being investigated and are likely to be complex,” Professor Jennings said.

“The consensus statement sought to spell out what is known so far about COVID-19 and heart disease, and the best ways to treat affected patients,” he said.

One thing we know for sure at this point is that people with heart disease appear to be more vulnerable to the serious complications of COVID-19 compared to the general population.

“We know from experience that when a virus targets the lungs, the heart needs to work harder to pump blood to the body. This can exacerbate problems in people who already have a heart condition, like heart failure. Viral infections can also increase a person’s risk of a heart attack.”

The virus may also trigger cardiac complications in people without heart disease, Professor Jennings said. “COVID-19 is largely a respiratory illness, but patients who are infected with COVID-19 may also experience damage to the heart,” he said.

“Information about the effects of COVID-19 on the heart is rapidly changing, but international reports indicate that COVID-19 may result in heart problems like injury to the heart muscle and abnormal heart rhythms.

People are understandably concerned about COVID-19. The Heart Foundation is committed to providing trusted, credible information and advice on heart health. For more information, visit the Heart Foundation web site or call our Helpline on 13 11 12.

The consensus statement published by the Medical Journal of Australia is endorsed by the Heart Foundation, Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, and the High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia.

It covers direct and indirect consequences of COVID-19 for people with heart disease and the professionals who look after them, as well as measures health services can take to safely provide cardiac care to people who need it. 

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