With the COVID-19 pandemic serving as the most physically and emotionally distressing health event of 2020, there are a number of reasons for optimism that new treatments for COVID will improve overall health and mental wellness in 2021. Because optimism in general may improve heart-health through better nutrition and sense of well-being, it stands to reason that starting the season with an optimistic disposition especially as it relates to conquering COVID is likely to pay off healthy dividends for your heart and overall health. Here are 4 reasons to get excited that COVID will soon be behind us.
- COVID Vaccines are here. Yes, I know that vaccinations got off to a slower start last month than projected, but now with nearly 6 million in the U.S. receiving the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, these numbers are expected to increase rapidly after President-Elect Biden assumes office later this month. Later this quarter, we anticipate emergency approval of additional vaccines that include the single dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.
- COVID antibodies last longer than previously thought. For those who have recovered from the virus, a new study suggests immune protection for at least 8 months! This is particularly encouraging if you are not among the priority groups for vaccination and may have to wait until later this spring/summer.
- Antibody infusion therapy reduces the need for hospitalization. If you have recently been diagnosed with COVID, this therapy may be useful for you. It received emergency approval from the FDA in late November for mild-moderate COVID symptoms but you would not qualify if you require oxygen treatment or hospitalization. The procedure takes a couple of hours and has been shown to reduce hospitalization rates by 70% as well as shorten the overall duration of illness (see my previous blog, “My Bout with COVID”). There have been reports of significant improvement in fatigue, muscle aches and even restoration of taste and smell soon after receiving this therapy.
- Plasma Exchange may reduce lung-related complications if given early. Another new study found that in men and women aged 65 and older, convalescent plasma (plasma donated after COVID recovery) was associated with a near 50% reduction of severe lung disease that would have otherwise required oxygen therapy. The key finding here was that plasma exchange had to be undertaken within 3 days of symptoms. In addition, those receiving plasma with the highest antibody titers also had the greatest likelihood of success. Use of plasma exchange and antibody infusion therapy is only effective during the early stages of the disease as other studies have shown that hospitalized patients do not reap these benefits.
I don’t know about you, but I am optimistic that we will not be talking about COVID in 2022!
Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA. To improve your heart health, check out his latest book: “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease“ published by Penguin Random House.