Cardiovascular Disease & COVID-19

Last updated: March 30

COVID-19 is of particular concern for patients with cardiovascular disease. If you have cardiovascular disease, are age 60 or older, or have additional underlying health conditions, you have a higher risk of developing more serious illness from COVID-19.

It’s important that you take steps now to help prevent COVID-19 exposure and infection. We strongly support directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that urge strict hand hygiene, use of hand sanitizers, cleansing of all shared surfaces and most importantly, physical distancing.

Your physician can review your medical record to give you a greater understanding of your personal risk. Additional information on the topic of cardiovascular disease and COVID-19 is available from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

Here are answers to some common questions related to cardiovascular disease and COVID-19. Please note that these answers are subject to change as we receive more information about COVID-19. If you have additional questions not answered here, call your physician or the Northwestern Medicine COVID-19 hotline at 312.47.COVID (312.472.6843).

Frequently Asked Questions

Individuals with cardiovascular disease do not appear to be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. However, it is clear that in those who do become infected, the more underlying health conditions a person has, including cardiovascular disease, the higher the chance of developing serious complications from COVID-19. Thus, people with cardiovascular disease need to pay particular attention to preventive measures, including strict hand hygiene and physical distancing.

People who have diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and heart failure are at particularly high risk for complications if they get COVID-19. The virus causes intense infection and inflammation in the body that can place additional stress on the cardiovascular system, including the heart.

This is a question that is particularly relevant as we face potential infection with COVID-19 in our patients with known cardiovascular diseases. There are active discussions happening worldwide about common cardiac medicines and the interaction with COVID-19 infection.

Based on what we know at present, you should not stop taking your cardiac medications. If there is a question, please talk to your physician first. Patients who are taking angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) especially need their medications to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. If new data emerge, we will provide timely updates.

If you have a question about your medications, please call your physician or submit a question through the MyNM Patient Portal. You can access the MyNM Patient Portal at nm.org/mychart or via the MyNM app on a mobile device.

Northwestern Medicine does not want to turn people away who need urgent care. If you are having a heart attack or complications from heart failure, an emergency department visit may be necessary. If you believe your condition can be managed through the phone, please call your physician. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention. Northwestern Medicine is taking many active measures to help reduce the risk of infecting other patients in emergency departments.

Keep at least a 2-week supply of your medications and contact your physician if you need refills. To refill your prescription, you can limit exposure to COVID-19 by using a mail-order service or drive-thru pharmacy, or have a caregiver pick up your medication.

Physicians recommend that people with cardiovascular disease adhere to the recommendations released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You are encouraged to practice strict handwashing, use of hand sanitizers, cleansing of all shared surfaces and most importantly, physical distancing. If you are older than 70 and have either hypertension, heart failure, coronary artery disease or diabetes, try to accomplish physical isolation and limit contacts as much as possible. You should also exercise, eat well, reduce stress and get plenty of sleep.

This is a difficult time because we love our family members and friends, and we want to be near them. And there are real concerns about the onset of depression and social isolation, especially for older adults. However, these concerns do not outweigh the risks that come with exposing someone to COVID-19. We encourage you to find new and creative ways to stay connected with older adults, including phone calls, teleconferencing, emails and letters. It is important to support their mental health while also protecting their physical health.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms such as a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, call your physician for guidance.

If you have been exposed to someone who received a COVID-19 diagnosis, you should self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of the virus. If you develop symptoms, which include fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, call your physician.