COVID-19 and The Heart, with Dr. Yasser Rodriguez from MY CARDIOLOGIST

Yasser Rodriguez, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.C. Board Certified in Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (also called COVID-19) has affected nearly every aspect of our everyday lives. While anyone can get COVID-19, patients with heart disease and hypertension may have a higher chance of getting sick.

How does the virus affect the heart?

While the main target of the virus are the lungs, the infection can trigger an inflammatory response that makes the heart work harder and decreases the amount of oxygen in the body itself. This decreased oxygen level has a direct effect on the heart, both mechanically and electrically.

The virus can infect the heart directly, causing inflammation which may lead to serious arrhythmias, chest pain, and heart failure.

Why are patients with pre-existing heart disease and hypertension at higher risk?

The answer is thought to be two-fold. Patients with hypertension have a higher risk since they tend to have an increased expression of a receptor (protein on the cell surface) called ACE-2. This ACE-2 receptor is the main target that the virus uses to enter our cells.

Additionally, patients with preexisting heart conditions may have a lower baseline that compromises their ability to keep up with the increased demands on the body caused by an infection.

Are there any treatments for COVID-19?

Unfortunately, there is no FDA-approved treatment at this time; however, there are many promising studies underway.

What are your thoughts about Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine) and Azithromycin (Z-Pack)?

There is conflicting data arising from both China and Italy regarding the use of this medication. This medication should not be started at home without first consulting a physician given a possible life threatening side-effect (QT Prolongation leading to sudden cardiac death).

Is there anything I can do to prevent COVID-19?

Patients should maintain social distance, maintain heart-healthy habits, continue to take medications as directed, and know when to ask questions via a virtual telehealth consult.

If you have any further questions or needs, schedule a virtual telehealth visit from the safety and comfort of your home.

To schedule a visit, please call or text: (786) 349-3129 or visit

Yasser Rodriguez, M.D., M.B.A., FACC, is a cardiac electrophysiologist in the South Florida community. In addition to managing general adult cardiac conditions, he specializes in arrhythmias, pacemakers, defibrillators, and advanced ablations. He has authored several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, mainly focusing on new approaches to cardiac procedures. 

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