Making an impact: AHA outlines its role during COVID-19 pandemic

The American Heart Association (AHA) has shared a detailed account of its role as the world continues to fight against the spread of the new coronavirus.

The analysis, published in the AHA’s Circulation journal, was written by AHA President Robert A. Harington, MD, of Stanford University; AHA President-Elect Mitchell S.V. Elkind, MD, of Columbia University; and AHA Immediate Past President Ivor J. Benjamin, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin. They noted the AHA’s focus on COVID-19 “may seem counterintuitive to some” since it is an infectious disease and not a noncommunicable disease such as cardiovascular disease or stroke. However, they explained, the disease “is very much a concern of the AHA” due to the connections between COVID-19 and patients with cardiovascular conditions.

“In China, CVD and hypertension were associated with an increased COVID-19 case fatality rate,” the authors wrote. “Among patients who died from COVID-19, substantial cardiac damage was observed. Furthermore, it appears that elderly persons with coronary heart disease or hypertension are more likely to be infected and to develop more severe symptoms. Surveillance for cardiovascular events after COVID-19 seems warranted, and this could be an area for future investigation.”

The three leaders noted that U.S. healthcare providers are currently living through a “mitigation phase” for the COVID-19 pandemic and it is crucial to “learn from missteps early on and subsequent successful mitigation in China.” The spread of the disease must be minimized at all costs, for example, and it is important to anticipate what is coming so that providers don’t find themselves surprised or overwhelmed when workloads rapidly escalate.  

The AHA can also help ensure that accurate scientific information is being spread to patients and their families. The recent statement from the AHA, Heart Failure Society of America and American College of Cardiology about taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) as prescribed is one example of spreading such valuable data.

“We call on our AHA members, clinical volunteers and others to aid these efforts and heed the guidance of the CDC, WHO, and state and local health departments and share best practices,” the authors concluded. “Together, with the public health and healthcare community, we are all working toward the same goals—preventing COVID-19 to the fullest extent possible, ensuring people with COVID-19 can be identified and receive care, developing treatments and a vaccine, ultimately stopping COVID-19, and laying the groundwork for the robust public health and healthcare system of the future.”