COVID-19: Don’t ignore exhaustion, chest pain, say experts

New Delhi: Lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome had taken centre-stage as the most

dreaded complications of COVID-19. However, with time, more issues have begun to be discovered. Heart damage has now emerged as another grim outcome in the virus’s repertoire of possible complications.

Cardiology experts say people should not ignore chest pain or exhaustion even if there is no fever. The suggestion was put forth during a discussion on ‘Heart Wellness during COVID-19’ hosted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) in their Illness to Wellness series on Friday.

Experts believe that people should be on the lookout for symptoms other than a fever for early detection of COVID-19.

Dr Mohsin Wali, a cardiologist and former physician to president of India, said that the most harmful feature of this virus is its uncertainty. “The virus either increases the heartbeat or decreases it, even if there is no fever. Patients need to be aware of their normal heart rate, and if they notice any changes, they should inform their doctor. The first symptom of this disease is no symptom. In some people, I noticed they would get tired easily. If we are alert at such a stage, then we can be prepared for further possible damage. In young working professionals, we sometimes notice changes in their chest, even if they received a COVID-negative report the previous day. Patients must reach out to doctors immediately if they notice any symptoms. You needn’t call for help only when you develop symptoms like fever, cough, or severe pneumonia. These might be there, but when you start to feel exhaustion or reduced oxygen levels, you should reach out to a doctor,” he explained.

Dr Ashok Seth, Chairman of Cardiology Council at Fortis Group of Hospitals, said that coronavirus could damage the heart by causing clots, reducing the efficiency of heart muscles, and rising heart rate. “There are multiple ways in which this virus attacks the heart. The virus tends to form clots in the body. It is one of how the virus attacks the body. It also forms inflammations which can lead to heart attacks. Formation of clots in young people in lungs can lead to severe breathlessness, low blood pressure and low oxygenation. The clotting tendency can even lead to stroke in young people. These are direct effects of the cardiovascular system. Inflammation can also affect the heart muscles leading to reduced pumping efficiency of the heart and heart rate disturbances,” he added.

Other experts emphasised that citizens must take even greater precautions since India is

on the upward slope of its COVID track where its peak is yet to be reached. One of the precautions is adoption of an anti-inflammatory diet, said Dr KK Aggarwal, former president of the Indian Medical Association. “Anything refined is inflammatory and should be avoided. Take up a non-inflammatory diet and add all supplements that are lost by the virus,” he said.

Anil Rajput, Chairperson, ASSOCHAM CSR Council, said, “Coronavirus has set forth a wide range of damages and challenges for

the world that doctors and researches are still struggling to get a grasp on. Therefore, the golden adage of prevention is better than cure, is something all of us must follow.”

Besides, the experts also stressed the importance of reaching out for mental health support and the increased need for

psychological counselling as they expect a surge in its demand owing to the distress caused by COVID-19. They further stressed the importance of keeping lungs active and increasing their capacities by undertaking activities like blowing conch shells, balloons, and whistles.