These are scary times, for everyone, but especially those with heart conditions. As part of its global response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, the American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization focused on heart and brain health and research, is committing $2.5 million to research efforts to better understand this unique coronavirus and its interaction with the body’s cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems.
As cases continue to rise, 46 cases confirmed in Allen County (as of Wednesday April 1 at 12pm according to the Indiana State Department of Health), it appears elderly people with coronary heart disease or hypertension are more likely to be infected and to develop more severe symptoms. Stroke survivors may also face increased risk for complications if they get COVID-19.
“This makes it even more critical that we find out all we can about this disease and urgently work on reducing its impact,” said American Heart Association president Robert A. Harrington, M.D., FAHA, Arthur L. Bloomfield Professor of Medicine and chair of the department of medicine at Stanford University. “Research is the very foundation of the American Heart Association and, given our global mission, this rapid response grant is an unprecedented but logical move for the organization in these extraordinary times. We are committed to quickly bringing together and supporting some of the brightest minds in research science and clinical care who are shovel-ready with the laboratories, tools and data resources to immediately begin work on addressing this emergent issue.”
Local partners, such as such as Steel Dynamics, Parkview Health, Sweetwater Sound, Vera Bradley, and Fifth Third Bank, help fund programs and necessary funding needed to move the AHA mission forward, such as this COVID-19 research endeavor, through different initiatives such as Northeast Indiana Go Red for Women Luncheon that took place in February and AHA Goes STEM, hosted by Sweetwater Sound, in March..
Specifically, the Association will be offering fast-tracked research grants for short-term projects that can turn around results within 9-12 month to better understand the diagnosis, prevention, treatment and clinical management of COVID-19 as it relates to heart and brain health. There will also be additional funding made available to the Association’s new Health Technologies & Innovation Strategically Focused Research Centers to develop rapid technology solutions to aid in dealing with the COVID 19 pandemic.
For heart patients, prevention is key. Their risk is not higher for getting the coronavirus as a patient, but if they do get it they have a higher chance of complications. Others facing this higher risk include people 60 and over, pregnant women, young children, people with serious chronic lung and kidney conditions, and people with compromised immune systems. As mentioned, stroke survivors may also have a higher risk of complications.
“Prevention is key in limiting the spread of coronavirus, and with more people working remotely or limiting their exposure to crowds, it’s important to maintain healthy habits at home, “said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for prevention. “Wash your hands often and stay home when you feel sick, but don’t disregard your physical activity and healthy eating habits. These are the foundation to maintaining and improving your health.”
The American Heart Association had events planned in Fort Wayne over the next couple of months but while the safety of their guests has been and will continue to be their top priority the events have been postponed.
“We encourage the community to continue to review the updated resources AHA has to offer during these difficult times as we are committed to helping people live longer, healthier lives. That holds true especially in times like this,” Diane Kemp, Regional Vice President, American Heart Association, shares.
The American Heart Association will continue to update their webpage at heart.org with coronavirus health information and tips to help people keep up their heart healthy habits amid virus concerns.
For more COVID-19 resources, visit heart.org/en/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-resources.