Since the COVID-19 vaccine was distributed to the public, Dr. Raymond Resnick has talked to a number of his patients about its effects on the heart.
The 30-year cardiologist with UPMC has been in the North Central region for three years and said over the past year he had many patients express concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine’s impact on the heart through heart attacks or other issues.
“I’ve had a few patients tell me that they didn’t get vaccinated because they’re worried about their heart and things like that,” Resnick said. “The likelihood of having a significant cardiac involvement from the vaccine is very, very small.”
Resnick did say that mild inflammation around the heart is possible, but he added that this is easily treated and usually not long-lasting.
It’s “extremely unlikely that anybody would suffer any significant adverse effect from it, other than some discomfort in the chest,” Resnick said.
In addition to vaccine hesitancy, Resnick added that many patients failed to receive annual checks and scans of their heart during 2020 and 2021 because they didn’t want to come into the hospital.
However, because of these delays, many heart conditions that are being discovered now are more advanced than if they had been caught earlier.
“The bulk of the people that I see are not doing all of the right things,” he said. “Even people that have known heart disease, they’re still not doing all the right things.”
Resnick encouraged individuals in the region not to forgo their checkups and to make healthy decisions about diet and exercise to encourage heart health.
Below is On the PULSE’s full interview with Resnick:
What is heart disease?
Heart disease, in and of itself, is a wide span of many, many different types of entities. But if your heart’s not working, you’re not healthy … Even if your brain and your lungs, your kidneys, everything else is working. If your heart is not working, certainly if your heart stops beating, you’re not alive. But a weakened heart muscle is the most common type of result of heart disease that we see. So people end up with cardiomyopathy and heart failure, and that ruins your quality of life. And it makes you more likely to have other problems within your body. So if you don’t have a healthy heart, the rest of your body is truly suffering.
How has heart disease changed over the years?
Managing heart disease today compared to in the past, we know that there are certain things that we do that make longevity more likely to occur, more years of life, more years of benefit. So defibrillators came out many years ago. The study supporting them came out that really support the proper use of them. They truly save lives and increase your chances of living if you have a cardiomyopathy or a sustained they read me that warrants placement of a defibrillator, but a lot of the medications we have and a lot of the procedures that we do also do show from studies that your chances of longevity are better. So as the new drugs come out, as the newer devices come out, more data comes out. The things that we do we try to limit the complications of a disease. And our goal, of course, is to give you the best years of life the most years and the best years of life.
How can someone prevent heart disease?
There’s a whole long list of things that people can do to stay healthy regarding heart disease. We recommend a proper diet, limiting saturated fat intake, limiting your red meat intake, certain things that are proven to be healthy for you like oats, going to your doctor or getting your blood pressure checked, your cholesterol checked, and a routine physical exam. All of those things are very important to do as far as staying healthy. Smoking is unfortunately very common in this area and it remains very common.
We’ve known for years that if you smoke, you’re more likely to get blockages in the arteries of your heart, blockages in the arteries to your brain, the arteries to your legs. And now there’s even data coming out on electronic cigarettes and all these vaping type devices not necessarily being very healthy for you. So avoiding things like cigarettes, I would avoid any type of electronic cigarette as well. avoiding excessive alcohol, certainly illegal drugs, cocaine and those substances can give you cardiovascular disease. So doing all of what we call basic good health. avoiding all the bad stuff and eating healthy is all good for you. And a regular exercise program. mainly talking about aerobic type exercise. It’s good for everybody.
How do you know if you have heart disease?
Some symptoms are very obvious. The obvious symptoms are usually pretty late. So if someone’s getting a tightness in their chest when they’re exerting themselves, obviously there’s something wrong. If someone’s getting short of breath doing usual level activity that they used to do without any problems. Obviously, something’s wrong. A lot of people are deniers and mild symptoms get denied sometimes for quite some time.
But the main symptoms we look for is “Are you able to exert yourself in full level activity and not have any symptoms? Are you able to do a good exercise program and do heavy daily activities without anything in the way of symptoms?
Can heart disease be cured?
Most things that we do are not curative. Most things that we do are fixing a problem immediately and dealing with the fact that you’re at risk for having this problem occur again. So it’d be great to say there was a fire and we threw water on it and the fire’s out but that’s very rare. Most of the time what we fix is a fix to get you well today, knowing that you’re still at risk for the same thing happening again tomorrow next year and years down the line.
Are there any misconceptions about heart disease?
When a patient tells me I know my body, I know my heart. That’s a patient who is being ignored. Nobody really knows their body and knows their heart without seeing a doctor and having appropriate testing done. We have a whole gamut of testing because you can see someone like myself, I can see you and examine you. And I don’t know what you have until I get your test results back. So if anybody thinks that they’re healthy because of whatever reasons they have, you don’t really know for sure. So without appropriate testing, you’re taking a guess to think that you’re fine.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause any heart problems?
There’s a lot of misconceptions. I’ve had a few patients tell me that they didn’t get vaccinated because they’re worried about their heart and things like that. The likelihood of having a significant cardiac involvement from the vaccine is very, very small. I wouldn’t tell anybody to not get vaccinated because of the extremely unlikely chance that they may get some type of cardiac involvement and a lot of what we see is an inflammation around the sack of the heart, which is generally a fairly easy treatable type of heart disease and extremely unlikely that anybody would suffer any significant adverse effect from it, other than some discomfort in the chest.
COVID has caused a lot of patients especially in the early days when we didn’t have a vaccine and people were dying quite commonly. It’s caused a lot of people to stay at home. Even if you called your doctor and said, ‘I think I have COVID,’ your doctor said stay at home. So if you’re at home having what you think may be heart disease, a lot of patients really did stay at home.
The patients that we saw were often late-stage presenting, even heart attack patients stayed more so at home. Now I think it’s eased up a bit. Patients are coming in, I think a little bit earlier than they were. The amount of heart disease from COVID that we see is not that tremendous. You can see almost any type of development of the heart muscle and you can end up with a weak heart muscle. Fortunately, those cases are not that common. And most of the patients with COVID from a cardiovascular standpoint are doing fine. We have enough treatment available that even if COVID involves the heart, most patients are doing fine.