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Feb. 18, 2021

By Michael Almaleh, MD, FAAC

Most people know that heart disease is the leading cause of death both in the United States and throughout the world. What many people might not realize is that COVID-19 increases this risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who have more advanced heart disease – heart failure, coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy – are at increased risk for becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, who smoke or are overweight, may have an increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Isolation caused by the pandemic and the loss of loved ones also increases stress on the heart.

In addition, many people have put off their doctor appointments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly dangerous for people who may have undiagnosed heart disease. Heart disease can be silent, with few or no symptoms, so it’s important to see your clinician.

Ways to get healthy

During the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, WellMed is offering a few different ways for you to get health care safely.

One way is to have a curbside visit by driving to the clinic and staying in your car as a staff member comes to you. If necessary, we can bring you a computer tablet so you can talk your clinician.

If you have trouble getting to the clinic, your health care team can connect with you by telephone, or through your smart phone, computer or tablet. If needed, we can also deliver an easy-to-use GrandPad computer tablet to your home.

Your heart is in your hands

The best way to stay healthy is through prevention. Keeping your heart strong is important and here are some ways you can protect it:

  • Make an appointment to see your health care provider, and keep it.
  • Get blood work and other screening tests done as recommended by your clinician.
  • Add a few fruits and vegetables to your diet every day, even if a small portion. Healthy changes can start small.
  • Cut back on eating unhealthy foods such as soda and ice cream.
  • Add some physical activity to your day (check with your clinician first.)
  • Take medications prescribed by your clinician as directed.
  • If you smoke, make a plan to stop. Ask your clinician about programs and medications that can help.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family through phone calls or video sessions on your computer, smart phone or tablet.
  • If you have lost a loved one, let yourself grieve. If you feel overwhelmed, tell your clinician. There is help available.

Please continue to follow these CDC-recommended practices to keep from getting sick:

  • Wear a mask whenever you are around other people.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds several times a day.
  • Keep at least six feet away from others out in public.

Finally, please visit for the latest on the safety and availability of currently approved COVID vaccines.

Michael Almaleh, MD, FAAC, earned his medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts. He completed his internal medicine internship and residency at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. He completed his cardiology fellowship at Wilford Hall and Brooke Army Medical Center Medical Centers in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Almaleh is a 14-year veteran of the United States Air Force, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served seven years in active duty and seven years with the reserves. Dr. Almaleh is the Chief of Cardiology and Specialty Care for WellMed Greater Texas Region. He is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease and nuclear cardiology. In addition, he is one of the leaders of the WellMed COVID-19 task force and sits on multiple committees within Optum and UHC that focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Almaleh is also the physician leader for WellMed’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

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