Changing Hearts

Appears in the February 2021 issue.

Dr. Asim Babar

Getting 12,000 views would be a major score for any teenager posting video content online. But for Dr. Asim Babar, going viral on YouTube isn’t a quest for popularity as much as an effort to save people’s lives.

As a cardiologist at Loyola Medical Center and assistant professor at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine, Babar has recently focused on educating both primary care physicians and the general population on numerous cardiac problems related to the virus that causes COVID-19—and how existing heart conditions can potentially complicate and endanger recovery.

Although Babar says that the heart issues are secondary to the lungs in most hospitalized patients, blood clots that develop in the legs or lungs due to immobilization are difficult to predict. “It’s been very challenging—there is very little we can do to alleviate arrhythmia, but a majority of patients still recover.”

Some face long-term effects that are still being discovered—and he admits the medical community doesn’t know what the other side is going to look like for them.

“The majority of patients that I’ve been seeing already had cardiac issues,” says Babar, “but I’ve now seen a handful of patients that didn’t have known or significant issues, but now they are in my clinic because of COVID. I just saw a patient this morning that had normal blood pressure all her life, and now she has high blood pressure.”

In addition to new cardiac issues, Babar has seen reluctance to seek treatment from existing patients. “A lot of our outpatients have had certain care postponed, or been afraid to recognize common cardiac symptoms that can have a negative impact on their well-being.” He says people experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, passing out, unusual or new swelling in legs, or blood pressure higher than 140/90 should not hesitate to seek medical attention.

Babar’s two-minute video explains why it’s so important for patients to exercise and eat healthy during this pandemic to ensure optimal heart health, as well as to continue medical treatment safely.

“One of the initiatives for the video is to try to convince patients that we have a good system in place,” says Babar. Although it’s safe for patients to come in to the clinic setting, telehealth appointments are an option—but Babar cautions it’s not for everyone. “There are a host of challenges with trying to set up a video call, especially people who struggle with technology.”

To view Dr. Babar’s video on heart disease and COVID-19, visit Loyola Medicine’s YouTube channel.

Photo courtesy Loyola Medicine