DALLAS, May 5, 2020 — An estimated five million patients in the United States live with heart valve disease, and many have had upcoming valve repair surgery rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Heart Association, along with 14 North American cardiovascular societies, recently issued a framework for safely resuming cardiovascular treatment, such as heart valve surgery, during the COVID-19 pandemic. People with heart valve disease live with symptoms that include shortness of breath, chest tightness and fatigue daily and must be especially cautious to avoid contracting COVID-19, due to the increased risk for complications.

“The most important thing for people with heart valve disease is to stay healthy and stay as active as possible,” said Suzanne Arnold, cardiologist, St. Luke’s Health System, Kansas City, Missouri in a video by the American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization dedicated to a world of longer, healthier lives. “Generally, heart valve patients whose condition can’t wait a few months are continuing to have the procedures done; whereas it may be safer for patients with less urgent valve problems to wait until things settle out a bit at the hospitals.”

For those who have an upcoming procedure, Arnold advises patients to also maintain good nutrition and physical activity and follow public health protocols for COVID-19 prevention. “The healthier you are going into the surgery, the quicker the recovery, which means fewer complications, shorter length of stay at the hospital and faster recovery after returning home” she said.

Arnold also advises people with heart valve disease to be diligent when it comes to social distancing and coronavirus prevention. “While COVID-19 could attack anyone, people with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk of developing serious illness with COVID-19. This is likely the bigger concern - not that COVID-19 makes the [heart valve disease] worse, but that the valve disease may make COVID-19 harder to beat,” she said.

Learn more about heart valve disease and how to manage symptoms at home at heart.org/heartvalves.

Get the latest American Heart Association information and recommendation on COVID-19 here.

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The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookTwitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.   

For Media Inquiries:

Alexson Calahan, Alexson.calahan@heart.org, 515-994-0772

For Public Inquiries:

1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and stroke.org