The importance of heart health cannot be overemphasized especially during this pandemic. According to the American College of Cardiology, the risk of dying from Covid-19 is 20 times higher among those with cardiovascular disease compared to the general population. The immune system is weaker among those with heart disease so it is more difficult to combat infection. At the same time, Covid-19 may affect the cardiovascular system so those who already have preexisting heart problems can have a more severe infection. So, if you have cardiovascular disease, you need to make sure to continue taking your doctor-prescribed medications. Communicate regularly with your physician and use telehealth visits if available. Know when to seek urgent medical care. Some patients forego emergency room visits because they are afraid of exposure to Covid-19. However, this may exacerbate their medical condition and lead to a more severe disease.
There are many things you can do to maintain a healthy heart while also protecting yourself from Covid-19. Stay home as much as possible, practice social distancing, wear a mask and sanitize regularly. Make sure your home is stocked with enough food, supplies and medicines to last a month. Use delivery services instead of going out. If you have high blood pressure, monitor it routinely. Avoid over-the-counter drugs that can affect your blood pressure such as ibuprofen and decongestants. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake. Eating healthy should be a priority. Consider a diet composed mainly of plant-based unprocessed foods. Make sure you constantly hydrate yourself by drinking at least 8 glasses of water daily.
Exercise is an essential part of keeping your heart healthy. Nowadays, staying active can be a challenge especially if you have to stay indoors due to the risk of Covid-19. But you can be creative by doing other physical activities such as cleaning your house, gardening, yoga, going up and down the stairs and attending online aerobics classes. Exercise for 20-30 minutes five times a week is recommended.
Stress and anxiety can worsen hypertension and heart disease. Poor mental health can manifest as loss of appetite, lack of energy, grief and loss of interest in favorite activities. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. You can connect with friends and family virtually. A meditation app can be used to refocus. Talk to a mental health professional if you are not able to handle your stressors.
One of the consequences of having to stay at home or even work from home is having poor blood circulation. The cells do not receive adequate oxygen and nutrients and this can manifest as having cold extremities, bluish-tinged skin and poor wound healing. Prolonged sitting can slow down blood flow and lead to blood clots. Aside from diet and exercise, walking around the house during work breaks and proper posture are important. Using a standing desk may be beneficial. Ask your physician if you need compression stockings to better improve circulation.
“Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Tips to Stay Heart Strong.” CardioSmart, American College of Cardiology, 6 May 2020, www.cardiosmart.org/topics/coronavirus/how-to-manage-your-heart-health/tips-to-stay-heart-strong.
Glassberg, Helen. “How to Keep Your Heart Healthy During Covid-19 Pandemic.” Penn Heart and Vascular Blog, 3 June 2020, www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/heart-and-vascular-blog/2020/june/keeping-your-heart-healthy-during-covid.
“Protecting Your Heart Is More Important than Ever during COVID-19.” Providence, www.providence.org/news/uf/619010954.
Robinson, Jennifer. “How to Improve Your Circulation.” WebMD, WebMD, 16 Mar. 2020, www.webmd.com/dvt/ss/slideshow-dvt-improve-circulation.