Action needed to limit impact of pandemic on heart health

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   4th Feb 2021

COVID-19 has a significant impact on cardiovascular health and the delivery of cardiovascular care.

Members of the European Parliament have called on European and national decision-makers to prevent further damage to cardiovascular health after the COVID-19 pandemic.

This call was made by the MEP Heart Group during an online meeting of European leaders which took place yesterday (Wednesday 3rd February).

The MEP Heart Group is a forum which provides MEPs with an opportunity to generate dialogue, outreach and activities at EU and Member State level. It is made up of MEPs who have an interest in promoting measures that will help reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in Europe and raise CVD as a priority on the EU political agenda.  Two Irish MEPs Frances Fitzgerald, and Grace O Sullivan are members of the MEP Heart Group.

The online meeting was organised by the MEP Heart Group, which is coordinated by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the European Heart Network (EHN).

Cardiovascular complications linked to COVID-19 are wide ranging and include cardiac injury, heart attacks, arrhythmia and progressive heart failure.

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According to the group, even before the outbreak of COVID-19, cardiovascular disease (CVD) was the leading cause of death in Europe and the EU. More than 60 million people live with CVD in the EU and nearly 13 million new cases are diagnosed each year. The pandemic has aggravated this grim scenario, leaving many patients with new cardiovascular health conditions after recovering from COVID-19.

Cardiovascular complications linked to COVID-19 are wide ranging and include cardiac injury, heart attacks, arrhythmia and progressive heart failure. Pre-existing cardiovascular diseases are particularly important predictors of in-hospital complications and mortality in patients hospitalised with COVID19.

The MEP Heart Group called on European and national decision-makers to put in place a number of measures aimed at preventing further damage to cardiovascular health as a result of the pandemic. These included, the development of separate pathways for the care of cardiac emergencies to reduce the risk of infection.

The group also called for support for clinical activity to prevent, diagnose and treat CVD and support for research on digital health technologies to manage CVD during the COVID-19 pandemic, on treatment options for COVID-19 patients with CVD, or at risk of CVD; and on the mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 infections impact the cardiovascular system.

Investment in the collection of Europe-wide data on cardiovascular health was also needed the group said.

“Cardiovascular disease is responsible for almost 30per cent of total mortality in Ireland, yet services are operating in a policy vacuum,"

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , The Irish Heart Foundation

Sandra Gallina, Director General, DG Health, European Commission pointed out: “The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the need to invest in the fight against cardiovascular disease, but it has also shown us that Europe’s strength lies in collaboration, solidarity, and unity of purpose. Building on the lessons from the past 12 months, we have proposed to build a strong European Health Union, with more resilient health systems, so Europeans can benefit from their right to health and healthcare.”

Professor Hugo Katus, ESC Advocacy Committee Chair underlined: “An ESC survey showed that during the pandemic, many patients having a heart attack were too afraid to seek life-saving treatment due to fears of catching the coronavirus. We need to avoid this scenario happening again.”

Brando Benifei, MEP, Co-Chair of the MEP Heart Group urged: “The COVID-19 outbreak has put a sharp focus on the weaknesses of healthcare systems across Europe and generated an unprecedented strain on hospitals and healthcare professionals. We now need to redesign healthcare delivery, take forward research, and translate innovative solutions into practice.”

Commenting Kathryn Reilly, Advocacy Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation said the charity welcomed the statement of the MEP Heart Group and hoped that this EU focus could help drive effective responses to prevent further damage to cardiovascular health.

“Cardiovascular disease is responsible for almost 30per cent of total mortality in Ireland, yet services are operating in a policy vacuum. The Department of Health’s “Changing Cardiovascular Health: Cardiovascular Health Policy 2010 – 2019” established a framework for the prevention, detection and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, to reduce the burden of these conditions.  The plan is now out of date.

Cardiovascular health is particularly prominent in this pandemic: Data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre highlights that patients with pre-existing cardiovascular diseases suffer the highest mortality rate of all COVID patients. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the availability of cardiology services and management of cardiac conditions.

Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease – heart disease and stroke – does not disappear or significantly decrease in prevalence during a pandemic. That is why we support this call for national and European strategies to deal with the expected rise in demand for cardiac care post-pandemic, as well as ensuring that resources remain in place now,” she said.

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cardiovascular disease cardiovascular health coronavirus Covid-19 heart attack heart disease MEP MEP Heart Group

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