Coronavirus: What to Know if You Have Heart Failure

Living with a serious illness like heart failure can be challenging on its own. Unfortunately, it also carries an increased risk of complications from the coronavirus. This surely adds another level of concern right now for you, your family and caregivers. It can be hard to know the cause of new or worsening symptoms, since several overlap. So it’s important to be as informed as possible, know when to communicate with your doctors – and when to call 9-1-1 for an emergency.

Main Symptoms of Coronavirus

As we learn more about this new coronavirus, the list of symptoms has grown. It now includes: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills or shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and recent loss of smell or taste. For more information on these and other signs of coronavirus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) here.

Communicating with Your Doctor

If you notice any new or worsening symptoms, regardless of what you think is causing the changes, contact your doctor right away. The doctor will let you know what to do. You may be offered a telehealth visit instead of an in-office appointment. This is a way to assess your health and keep you safe from being exposed to the coronavirus. For tips on making the most of this new way of speaking with your doctor, click here

According to the American Heart Association, new or worsening symptoms from congestive heart failure include:

  • Worsening ability to breath
  • Heart feels like it’s racing or throbbing
  • Daily weight increases of two or more pounds, or more than 5 pounds in a week
  • Increased swelling in lower legs, feet, ankles
  • Confusion or impaired thinking

Call 9-1-1 for a Medical Emergency

Equally important is knowing to call 9-1-1 should you have any of these emergency signs, some of which are associated with both heart failure and coronavirus:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to stay present or alert
  • Bluish lips or face

Click here for more information from the CDC about coronavirus, and visit the American Heart Association for more about heart failure and coronavirus.  For a reminder on what you can do to stay safe from coronavirus if you have a serious illness, visit

What Palliative Care Provides

You may already be working with a palliative care team based on having heart failure. If it’s new to you, it’s important to know that palliative care teams specialize in managing symptoms, side effects, and stress of serious illnesses like heart failure – and coronavirus. 

They also educate you and guide you and your loved ones through all the distress caused by serious illnesses. The team will help you navigate the complex health care system. They will keep you, your family and all of your doctors informed, up to date and on the same page.

Palliative care specialists can help you plan in advance, especially since heart failure episodes can become worse, sudden and unpredictable. In fact, one of the most important things your palliative care team can do is help you fully discuss your health with your family caregivers.

The team will use their communication expertise to help you achieve your personal goals while living with the disease. They understand that every patient and every family is different. The team is there to help you and your family achieve the best possible quality of life. 

To learn more, visit



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