What is coronavirus?

What does Coronavirus (COVID-19) mean for those living with cholesterol or lipid conditions?

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Here you can find out what coronavirus is, the symptoms to look out for, and the steps you can take to help protect yourself and others. 

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.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus and most people will experience a mild to moderate respiratory illness. 

What are the symptoms?

  •  A new, continuous cough.
  •  Fever (high temperature).
  •  A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. 

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.   Anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus should get a free PCR test (antigen or swab test) to check if they have the virus and self isolate until the results are known. 

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 use the NHS 111 online service or call  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.  Please feel free to email us at ask@heartuk.org.uk and we'll get back to you.

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

COVID-19 spreads primarly through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

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 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.

See who is at higher risk, and follow the guidelines above to protect yourself and others. 

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


What treatment is available?


The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccines to all adults aged 18 and over.   The vaccines are safe and effective and give the best protection against the virus.   You do not need to wait for the  NHS to contact you. 

Book a coronavirus vaccination

Cholesterol and COVID-19 Vaccine:

Having a risk factor such as high cholesterol alone does not mean you are more likely to get coronavirus or become seriously ill (particularly if your cholesterol is well controlled).

For people with high cholesterol and/or those at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, our specialist recommendations to avoid severe illness are as follows:

-  closely follow current advice and guidance set out by the Government and NHS

- take lipid lowering and other prescribed medication to control cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes etc

- follow healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle advice including avoiding smoking

-  take up the NHS invitation to attend for a COVID-19 vaccine - you do not need to wait to be contacted

- for those over the age of 40 , any approved vaccine is currently recommended by JCVI and MHRA

- for those under the age of 40 the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are currently recommended by JCVI and MHRA

Other treatments

Currently there is ongoing research being carried out by scientists on medicines to help treat people who are seriously ill with  coronavirus.  This includes drugs such as dexamethasone, a steroid which helps to  reduce inflammation.  

More recently the WHO have also recommended Interleukin 6 (IL-6) receptor blockers, in addition to corticosteroids for those in hospital with severe or critical COVID-19 infection.  These are known as Tocilizumab and Sarilumab

Further information

The simple steps you can take to help look after yourself are the same as with most illnesses. These 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.

See the Government's advice latest advice for national lockdowns, tier systems and what you can and can't do

See the advice

There is official information from the NHS and the Government covering:


An overview of coronavirus

The Government response

Travel advice

Stay at home guidance