COVID-19: Masks and heart disease patients


In this article:

  • Even as infection rates decrease, masks can help individuals with heart disease avoid COVID-19.

  • Learn the correct way to handle and wash masks.

  • Providence physicians recommend heart disease patients wear masks under certain circumstances.

If you have a heart condition, it’s smart to continue to do everything you can to protect yourself against COVID-19 even as infection rates decrease. The question is, does wearing a mask provide the best protection for you — or for those around you?

As we know by now, face masks do help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That’s because it’s possible to have coronavirus but not have any symptoms. Wearing a mask helps contain the small droplets that come from your mouth or nose when you sneeze, cough or talk. You’re also cutting down on the chances of spreading the infection to others, even if you don’t know whether you have the virus.

Although any facemask is better than none, medical-grade N95 or N100 masks have stronger filtration and lower your risk of being exposed to 95% of airborne particles, whether small particle aerosols or large droplets.

Bottom line: If you have heart disease, and especially if you aren’t vaccinated or you are around unvaccinated people, it’s important to encourage everyone you know to wear masks when they’re around you — and doctors recommend you wear one, too. After all, even high-risk heart patients don’t always show symptoms. Stay up to date on the CDC's recommendations for masking and how to keep yourself as protected as possible from current variants

What if your heart condition makes it hard to breathe in a mask?

People who have mild breathing problems will most likely be able to wear a face mask. But if you have heart failure, for instance, that may make it harder to breathe with a mask on. Your doctor can advise you on if you can wear a mask for short periods of time while you’re running errands or visiting with others.

If you do go outside without a mask, try to avoid making close contact with others and maintain a strict 6-foot distance. As long as you don’t have major breathing problems, wear a mask whenever and wherever it’s hard to keep physical distance.   

What is the best protection for heart disease patients?

While it may be tempting to completely relax about the virus, if you have a heart condition, you should still use these guidelines.  

  • Avoid people you know who have symptoms, even if they’re mild.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Regularly clean surfaces you touch. These include handles, doorknobs, light switches or steering wheels. Use a disinfectant that removes the virus.
  • If you have fever (a temperature of 100.04 F or above), cough or a suspected chest infection, call your doctor.

What is the best way to wear, remove and wash my mask?

Believe it or not, there are proper ways to wear, remove and clean your mask. 

Heart disease patients are high-risk

It’s important to note that having heart disease doesn’t make you more likely to get COVID-19. But we still don’t know what makes some patients more likely than others to get COVID-19.

We do know people with pre-existing heart conditions like high blood pressure, heart failure, pulmonary disease, and obesity have a higher risk of more severe infection if they do get COVID-19. That’s because these heart conditions lower the natural reserves your body needs to fight the infection. And while studies are still somewhat new, it’s been found that people with underlying heart disease die at a higher rate than people with chronic respiratory disease.  

Prevention is the heart of the matter

There are a few things you can do to take care of your heart and help prevent a heart emergency during this pandemic.

  • Keep taking your heart disease medicines (including your high blood pressure and high cholesterol drugs) based on your doctor’s orders.
  • Make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of those medicines.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have new concerns about your health, especially if you feel sick.

Most important of all, the American Heart Association says, “Don’t die of doubt.” If you experience the first sign of a heart attack or stroke, call 911. Hospitals are still the safest place you can go to receive lifesaving treatment. Don’t delay getting emergency care if you need it.

Share your #MyMaskIs story @providence.

Find a doctor

Looking for a trustworthy cardiologist, family doctor, or other caregiver? See the Providence provider directory. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services. 

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Related resources

Are you still on the fence about wearing a mask?

Protecting your heart is more important than ever during COVID-19

CDC: Heart conditions and COVID-19

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

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