COVID-19: A matter of masks and heart disease

COVID-19: A matter of masks and heart disease

  • How masks work to protect against COVID-19.
  • Do masks keep people from getting the virus — or giving it?
  • Best ways for heart patients to protect themselves against COVID-19.


To mask or not to mask? All controversy aside, there are several vital things heart patients should keep in mind when it comes to COVID-19 and wearing a face covering.

How masks protect against the spread of COVID-19

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

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, it’s important to encourage everyone you know to wear masks when they’re around you — and doctors recommend you wear one, too. 

Bottom line: If you have heart disease, 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.

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 facemask. 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 whether you should skip the mask and shelter in place or 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 there are steps everyone can take to limit their risk of getting COVID-19, if you have a heart condition, these things are especially important.

  • Avoid people you know have symptoms, even if they’re mild.
  • Stay six feet away from other people whenever possible.
  • 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.
  • Stay at home as much you can. This includes working from home if possible.
  • 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. Find out more.

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 this is also a new virus, so the question is still out there about what makes some patients more likely than others to get COVID-19.

Still, people with pre-existing heart conditions like high blood pressure, heart failure, pulmonary disease and obesity have a higher risk of a 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.

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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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