COVID-19 has created a perfect storm for people with heart disease

COVID-19 has created a perfect storm for people with heart disease

Sep 30 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a perfect storm for heart health, the World Heart Federation (WHF) warns on World Heart Day. Three main factors are contributing to this phenomenon. First, people with COVID-19 and heart disease are among those with the highest risk of death and of developing severe conditions. Second, after the virus attacks, the heart might be adversely affected even in people without previous heart conditions, potentially resulting in long-term damage. Finally, fear of the virus has already led to a sharp decline in hospital visits by heart patients for routine and emergency care.  

This World Heart Day is unlike any other that has come before. Public health is front and center as societies face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the physical, emotional and economic toll it has taken. Almost a million lives have been lost to COVID-19 this year. As a comparison, an estimated 17.8 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2017. While patients steer clear of hospitals out of fear of catching the virus, their health is compromised even further.

WHF has the singular purpose of uniting the global health community to beat cardiovascular disease. This year, we are asking individuals, communities and governments to “use heart” to make better choices for society, our loved ones and ourselves. The “Use Heart” call to action is about using our head, influence and compassion to beat cardiovascular disease, the world’s number one killer. Given the current situation, WHF is also calling for recognition and urgent protection of frontline healthcare providers.    

In these trying times, it is paramount that we pay special attention to those who are at greater risk of complications from COVID-19 as well as better understand how the virus is affecting the hearts of otherwise healthy people. COVID-19 has created a perfect storm, in which those people with cardiovascular disease fare poorly, and those at risk don’t seek the treatment that they need to keep their hearts healthy. The heart and the entire vascular system are in danger and we need to act now. The world has not experienced a global event on this scale in decades – today we have a unique opportunity to unite, to mobilize our skills and to use our heart to act.”

Professor Karen Sliwa, WHF President

Cardiovascular disease has many causes: from smoking to diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and air pollution. To combat these, WHF is calling not only for individual behavior change but for a societal one. With equity at the center of WHF’s work, it is vital to make access to healthcare, healthy foods and a healthy way of life accessible and affordable to all people. Regulating unhealthy products, while creating healthy environments are examples of such solutions for governments and communities.  

WHF global study on cardiovascular disease and COVID-19

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In order to better understand the relationship between cardiovascular disease and COVID-19, WHF has embarked on a global study which aims to better describe cardiovascular outcomes and identify cardiovascular risk factors associated with severe complications and death in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. This study is already underway in Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Ghana, India, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa and Sudan. It is expected to publish preliminary data in late 2020, with a complete analysis in 2021. Hospitals around the world are currently preparing to start patient recruitment for the study and many additional countries will join the study in the coming months.

“World’s most urgent heart-to-heart” – panel series on behavioural and societal change

On World Heart Day, WHF will also launch the “World’s Most Urgent Heart-to-Heart”, a series of debates focused on how to unlock behavioral and societal change to beat cardiovascular disease. For many people, preventing cardiovascular disease comes down to behavior change. Yet, there is nothing harder than changing personal and societal behavior, thereby realizing lasting change. Comprised of experts from a number of disciplines, the debates will seek to uncover insights into the triggers and barriers to behavior change and how that manifests itself across societies. The first of this series of panel discussions will be livestreamed on September 29, 2020, with others to follow over the coming year.  

To join the first livestreamed discussion to be held as part of the WHF’s “World’s Most Urgent Heart-to-Heart” panel series on Tuesday, September 29 at 3:00PM CET, please register here: or view the discussion live on Twitter @worldheartfed or by clicking here

Getting involved in World Heart Day

In light of restrictions on social gatherings due to COVID-19, this year the WHF will be moving most of its activities for World Heart Day online. To learn more and get involved, please visit


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