American Heart Month: Cardiologist shares what to keep in mind about heart health

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – February is American Heart Month. A UNM Hospital cardiologist is sharing what you should keep in mind, especially since a new study shows COVID-19 is seriously impacting heart health.

“One of the most important things that people don’t realize is that, one in two adult Americans have hypertension, high blood pressure, and but only one in four have that blood pressure under control. That’s a massive amount of people that are at risk for stroke and heart attack, so they should be seeing their doctors,” said Dr. Abinash Achrekar.

One major step you can take to be heart healthy? Don’t smoke or vape.

Experts say about one in five New Mexicans are using tobacco products and that can lead to even worse outcomes.

“Their chances of developing severe COVID is phenomenally higher. So if you are out there smoking and vaping, you should really consider curtailing those things because if you do develop COVID you’re likely going to get very sick,” said Achrekar.

But it’s not just healthy habits that can help. The pandemic has impacted almost everything, including heart health.

“What I can tell you is that if you do get COVID, your chances of going on to develop heart disease, even if you didn’t have heart disease is probably one to two, one and a half to two and a half times greater than if you had never developed COVID or had COVID,” Achrekar said.

A new study published this month in Nature’s Medicine found that COVID can leave patients at risk for heart problems for at least a year after getting infected. Increasing the risk for heart failure by 72%, heart attack by 63% and stroke by 62% even if you had mild symptoms.

“The idea of, ‘let me just get COVID, let me get infected and get it over with,’ is really just bad advice because anytime somebody gets an infection, it’s an unknown. We don’t know if it’s going to be a mild infection or a severe infection. So the best way to protect yourself right now is to get vaccinated to follow public health guidelines,” said Achrekar.

Keep in mind, the study was done on non-vaccinated patients because the vaccine wasn’t available at the time.