In a statement issued on March 17, 2020, the American Heart Association (AHA) defined its role in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): mitigating the spread of the virus and educating the public.
Although the organization focuses on noncommunicable diseases — heart disease and stroke — the AHA has extended its mission, as evidence suggests that individuals with vs without an underlying cardiovascular condition are more severely affected by COVID-19.
Infections of the respiratory or urinary tract have been associated with an increased for cardiovascular events that include myocardial infarction. In a joint statement by the AHA and the America College of Cardiology issued in 2006, the organizations recommended that individuals with underlying cardiovascular health issues get vaccinated against influenza, as the virus may be associated with respiratory and cardiovascular complications. The mechanisms underlying the increased risk for cardiovascular events are not fully elucidated, but it is thought that they may result from an augmentation of stress in the cardiovascular system.
The Importance of Maintaining Mitigation
Although much is still to be discovered about COVID-19, it is reasonable to believe cardiovascular disease risk increases after infection. In China, the mortality rate was greater in patients who were infected with COVID-19 and had vs did not have hypertension. Anecdotal evidence suggests that elderly patients with vs without hypertension or coronary heart disease may be at greater risk for COVID-19 infection and may be affected to a greater extent.
The AHA stressed that it is in the mitigation stage of the pandemic, during which the organization is developing nonpharmaceutical interventions to help slow the spread of the virus. Efficacious measures can be adopted and mistakes avoided, by learning from China where the disease was successfully mitigated. Clinical preparedness, in particular in acute care hospitals, is essential. More than 153,517 people worldwide have COVID-19 and over 5735 people have died, as of March 16, 2020.
In collaboration with their partners and network of clinicians and scientists, the AHA will continue to educate the public.
The organization expects that the management of patients with COVID19 and an existing or newly developed cardiovascular condition will require multidisciplinary teams that include critical care and cardiovascular physicians and cardiologists. The AHA will seek to share evidence-based information on COVID-19 that applies to patients, caregivers, and their families.
“Together, with the public health and health care community, we are all working toward the same goals – preventing COVID-19 to the fullest extent possible, ensuring people with COVID-19 can be identified and receive care, developing treatments and a vaccine, ultimately stopping COVID-19, and laying the groundwork for the robust public health and health care system of the future,” concluded the statement authors.
Elkind MSV, Harrington RA, Benjamin IJ. Role of the American Heart Association in the global COVID-19 pandemic [published online March 17, 2020]. Circulation. doi:10.1161/circulationaha.120.046749