COVID-19 and Heart Disease: When to Seek Medical Care for Your Symptoms During a Pandemic

floating red covid-19 cells

Throughout the pandemic, cardiac hospital admissions have dropped dramatically, as many patients are ignoring symptoms out of fear of exposing themselves to the virus if they seek medical care. But ignoring dangerous symptoms of a heart attack or serious heart condition can have tragic consequences.

“It’s still important to get the time-sensitive medical care you need to stay healthy, even during a pandemic,” said Nisha Jhalani, MD, Director of the CRF Women’s Heart Health Initiative and Director of Inpatient Clinical Services at the Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “There are many virtual options for physician visits, and hospitals and medical centers have taken necessary precautions to keep you safe when you need to come in for emergency care.”

Learn more about heart disease so that you don’t ignore symptoms that could threaten your health and know when to schedule an office visit or seek emergency medical care.

Chest Pain

  • Schedule a visit with your doctor if your chest pain is:
    • New or worsening
    • Associated with other symptoms
    • Associated with exercise
  • Seek emergency care (call 911):
    • If you think you might be having a heart attack

Shortness of Breath

  • Schedule a visit with your doctor if:
    • You need to stop walking or stop climbing stairs, especially if it’s a sudden change from what you are used to
    • You wake up at night or need to prop yourself up on several pillows to help yourself breathe at night

Heart Palpitations

  • Schedule a visit with your doctor if:
    • Your heart palpitations are very frequent or associated with lightheadedness, chest pain or shortness of breath
    • You pass out
    • Your pulse or heart rate is irregular


  • Schedule a visit with your doctor if:
    • Your dizziness is associated with other symptoms. It could signify an underlying valve condition or arrhythmia.
  • When not to worry (as much):
    • If you experience dizziness when standing up too fast
    • In association with a viral illness

Leg Swelling

  • Schedule a visit with your doctor if:
    • Also associated with shortness of breath
    • It’s occurring in only one leg, especially if it’s very painful
    • Also associated with redness or pain
  • When not to worry (as much):
    • If it goes away with leg elevation
    • If it’s worse on hot days and with increased salt intake

Want to learn more? Watch this video: