RSV and Heart Health: What Cardiologists Want You to Know

RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is a common disease that is typical in young children. In fact, almost all children will be affected by this virus by the time they are two years of age. But wait—there is more to the story, especially who else can be infected. If you are an aging adult, someone with chronic heart or lung disease, a weakened immune system, or live in a long-term care facility, we encourage you to keep reading.

The Shared Symptoms of RSVelderly couple with RSV.

RSV has similar symptoms to the common cold and flu so it can be difficult to diagnose. Usually the symptoms come a little at a time instead of all at once, like the flu.

  • You may have a runny nose.
  • You will cough and sneeze.
  • You’ll have a fever.
  • You will lose your taste for food
  • You may begin to wheeze as you breathe.

One of the most important pieces of information New Jersey Cardiology Associates wants you to know is not only are children susceptible to RSV, but older adults can be infected as well. This is particularly of interest because there is a relationship between RSV and heart health in more severe cases of RSV.

Underlying cardiovascular issues have been linked to 45-60% of adult hospitalizations for RSV.

It is critical your physician diagnoses RSV in an older adult and provides the appropriate treatment.

14 to 22% of hospitalizations are complicated by cardiovascular issues including worsening congestive heart failure, acute coronary syndrome, and arrhythmias.

Who Is Most at Risk for RSV in Adulthood?

If you are a senior without any heart related disease and you become infected with RSV, you will get all the normal symptoms.

Those most at risk with an RSV infection include:

  • Older adults
  • An adult with chronic heart or lung disease
  • Adults with weakened immune systems
  • An adult with certain underlying medical issues
  • Adults living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities

Many seniors can also develop pneumonia or a severe RSV infection can exacerbate certain other medical issues like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) making it difficult to breathe, and congestive heart failure where your heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen through our body.

In addition, older patients can face a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke within 3 days of infection.

Preventing RSV in Older Adults

If you are over the age of 65 and have any type of respiratory or heart health issues, be extremely careful to prevent an infection from RSV.

Many of the same precautions regarding COVID apply here.

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Try not to come into contact with anyone who has RSV or the flu
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Thoroughly clean shared surfaces
  • Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing with the upper part of your sleeves
  • Take Tylenol in the case of pain and fever

It is important to watch out for worsening symptoms like trouble breathing, wheezing, your skin looking blue or gray. If this occurs, get medical attention as soon as possible.

There are two new vaccines approved by the CDC to prevent RSV. Talk with a specialist to see if this is the right course for you.

Contact New Jersey Cardiology Associates for more information on your cardiovascular health and preventing RSV this season. We have clinics in West Orange, Toms River, Belleville, and Clifton.