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Study: Heart health a major factor in deadly COVID-19 cases, especially among minorities

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Posted at 12:17 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 20:20:49-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Research has revealed poor cardiovascular health as a leading cause of deadly COVID-19 cases among minorities, according to a University of Kentucky professor of epidemiology and dean of the College of Public Health.

Since the onset of the pandemic, researchers have been racing to learn how COVID-19 behaves and how to protect those most at risk. Dr. Donna Arnett explained she is not alone in her understanding of how minorities are affected by the coronavirus.

"There are some recent studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that show that there are long term cardiovascular effects in up to three or four COVID patients who recover," she said. "And so it's really important if you've had COVID to be even more attentive to your heart health than usual because we do know that there are long term consequences as evidenced by these special tests that image your heart."

She said over time the hope is that the heart will be able to repair itself but in her own research she has learned.

"We're still at the beginning really of the science of this pandemic and understanding the long-term consequences on our cardiovascular health," Arnett said.

As the former president of the American Heart Association and trainee of epidemiology, studying COVID-19 has been at the forefront of her research in 2020. She said she has learned if someone has pre-existing cardiovascular issues, they are more at risk of this new virus. She explained many of those people are in minority groups, particularly Blacks and Latinos.

"It's partially because they're the workforce [that] is often engaged in those front-facing population-facing careers," said Arnett. "So, they're out in the public they're not remote working from home. Secondly, there tends to be more comorbidities. Unfortunately, African Americans have higher levels of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and underlying cardiovascular disease and we know that all of those are major risk factors for the bad outcomes associated with COVID-19."

She said those in minority high-risk groups wearing masks and avoiding being in spaces with those outside your "pod" without proper ventilation is crucial as the pandemic rages on.

"As individuals, we can be an advocate for our own health, we can know our numbers we can know what our blood pressure is we can know what our body mass index is, and we can do actions to make sure that we keep them in healthy levels," Arnett said.