Coronavirus

Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. But what does this mean for those living with cholesterol or lipid conditions?

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This page was last updated on Monday 30 March. 

 

Here you can find out about coronavirus and how it might affect you if you have high cholesterol or a related health condition such as heart disease, or an inherited cholesterol condition such as FH. You can also read about the symptoms to look out for and the steps you can take to help protect yourself and others. 

Coronavirus information for health professionals

Am I more at risk of coronavirus if I have high cholesterol or heart disease?

 Having a high cholesterol level or heart disease does not increase the likelihood or risk of severe disease from coronavirus (COVID-19)

However, in the same way that catching seasonal flu can impact conditions such as coronary heart disease, coronavirus (COVID-19) is likely to be similar. Any virus that enters the body can put excess stress on your body's systems and organs, and this can cause existing conditions to worsen. This is why taking steps to protect yourself from catching the virus is so important, even if you feel fit and well.  

  • You should continue taking all your medications as prescribed unless your doctor or 111 tell you otherwise.
  • Make sure that you have your usual stock of medications available. There is no current need to order any extra stock of medications.
  • You can also ask your surgery or pharmacy if they offer a delivery service, or if they can suggest a company that can offer this for you.

We are also aware that most GP services, some hospitals and clinics, and some specialist FH services are unable to operate as normal during this time in order to help support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. There may, therefore, be delays and cancellations for routine appointments. Where possible, seek information and support online from reputable websites about your health conditions, such as the NHS and health charities.

A joint statement from the British Cardiovascular Society and the British Society for Heart Failure has offered reassurance to people taking ACE Inhibitors (drugs usually ending in '-pril', such as ramipril) and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs, drugs usually ending in '-sartan', such as candesartan).

Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) and coronavirus

If you have FH and have also been diagnosed with heart disease you are classed as ‘high risk’, meaning you should closely following the social distancing guidelines set out by the Government. This is because the risk of severe illness associated with the virus is higher than the general population.

We are also aware that most GP services, some hospitals and clinics, and some specialist FH services are unable to operate as normal during this time in order to help support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. There may, therefore, be delays and cancellations for routine appointments.

If you have FH but have not been diagnosed with heart disease you may also be at high risk if:

  • you are a man and you were diagnosed and first treated for FH after the age of 50
  • you are a woman and you were diagnosed and first treated for FH after the age of 60
  • you have FH with other risk factors such as high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes.

The likelihood of having underlying heart disease if you are in one of  these groups is approximately 50% (although this may be lower if you have been having treatment for a long time and it's working well).

If you fall into one of these categories you should consider yourself as a high risk person and follow the social distancing guidelines while continuing to take all your prescribed medication.

How do I know if I'm at very high risk?

Following guidance set out on 21 March, the NHS have sent out a letter to people who have been identified as being at most risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus, which advises them they need to be protected (or shielded) for the next 12 weeks.

People falling into this highest risk (or extremely vulnerable) group includes people who:

  • have had an organ transplant
  • are having certain types of cancer treatment
  • have blood or bone marrow cancer, such as leukaemia
  • have a severe lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma
  • have a condition that makes you much more likely to get infections
  • are taking medicine that weakens your immune system
  • are pregnant and have a serious heart condition. 

If you believe that you are in this vulnerable group and did not receive a letter by 30 March 2020, contact your GP or hospital team.

See the Government guidance on shielding vulnerable people. 

What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The term coronavirus actually refers to a group of viruses that can cause many different conditions – including the common cold. It’s important to note, however, that the current outbreak is not just a cold.

What are the symptoms?

  •  A new, continuous cough
  •  Fever (high temperature)
  •  Shortness of breath

You may not necessarily have all of these symptoms, so if you’re unsure then it’s best to be cautious and follow self-isolation guidance set out by the government.

Use the NHS 111 online service to check your symptoms. 

What should I do if I have symptoms I’m concerned about?

Most people with coronavirus symptoms are able to manage at home. If you’re worried that your symptoms are becoming much worse, or you’re struggling to cope, then call the NHS on 111 – do not go to your GP surgery, a pharmacy or hospital in person. The 111 staff will advise on the next steps. 

 

Our Cholesterol Helpline is running as usual to support you and the NHS. Please note that we are not able to diagnose coronavirus so please refer to Government and NHS guidance if you think you may have coronavirus symptoms. During this time we might have high call volumes so if you can’t get through please feel free to email us at ask@heartuk.org.uk

 

How do I avoid catching or spreading coronavirus (COVID-19)?

As coronavirus is a new illness, there is no information as to exactly how it’s spread. Similar viruses spread in cough droplets, so the advice currently includes:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, or using alcohol gel if none is available.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue, or use your elbow, when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean.
  • Stay at home. 

As well as taking care of your own health, at times like these it's important to consider others too. Most people with coronavirus will not be badly affected by it in the long term as far as current science is suggesting. However, if you pass the virus on to a more vulnerable person the situation could be very different. This includes the elderly, pregnant women and people with existing health conditions. Follow the guidelines here to protect yourself and others. 

Have a look at these coronavirus myth busters from the World Health Organisation.

 

What treatment is available?

Currently, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for coronavirus. The simple steps you can take to help look after yourself, as with most illnesses are:

  • Stay hydrated – water is best.
  • Try to continue eating as normally as possible.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Treat symptoms like fever with over the counter medicines like paracetamol.
There is official information from the NHS and the Government covering:

 

An overview of coronavirus

The Government response

Travel advice

Stay at home guidance

For GP and prescriber information

click here