COVID-19 has significant impacts on us as a nation. Even for individuals who did not contract COVID-19, the pandemic may still have negative consequences on our health through an increase in unhealthy habits and fear of seeking treatment.
What If I Have Heart Disease?
As you are aware through many CDC alerts, patients who are older and/or have underlying conditions, defined broadly as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and others, are at increased risk to have complications if they contract COVID-19.
10% of COVID-19 patients with pre-existing heart conditions die, versus <1% of healthy individuals. Moreover, these patients are also more likely to be hospitalized, with 40% of COVID-19 related hospitalizations being tied to cardiovascular disease or stroke.
Although there is still much to be learned about COVID-19’s effect on heart conditions, we know that COVID-19 is likely to trigger:
- Thrombotic manifestations | abnormal clotting- complications can include heart disease or stroke.
- Vascular inflammation | inflammation of the blood vessels, which can result in decreased blood flow
- Myocarditis | inflammation of the heart muscle that can cause trouble for the heart in pumping blood
- Cardiac arrhythmias | heart rhythm disorder than can cause your heart to beat too fast or too slow
To date, there is no evidence that high risk patients are more likely to contract the virus. In this case, an ounce of prevention is truly more valuable than a pound of cure. Help reduce your risk for contracting COVID-19 through:
- Practice social distancing: at all times stay 6 feet away from others.
- Double down on personal hygiene: make sure you practice hand washing very frequently for 20 seconds each time with soap and preferably warm water. This becomes especially crucial after touching things/items that have been touched by others.
- Do not share personal items: this includes towels, pens, utensils, food etc.
- Wear a mask if you have to go out in public: a very simple mask is fine. A cloth mask or scarf that covers your nose and mouth will be fine too.
- Wipe common surfaces frequently, including shopping carts, door handles, etc.
- At the end of the day practice common sense and you will offer yourself and your family the best protection.
Heart Attacks & COVID-19
Aside from the harmful effects of contracting COVID-19, the pandemic has created a sense of fear around visiting the emergency room, even in the most urgent of cases. Over half of cardiologists reported seeing 40-60% reduction in hospital admissions related to heart attacks. This has resulted in an increase in at-home mortality, with more heart attack patients dying in the hospital. The American Heart Association says to be on the lookup for these potential heart attacks symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Pain or discomfort in the arms, neck, jaw, or stomach
- Lightheadedness, vomiting or nausea
If you are feeling any symptoms of a heart attack, do not fear going to the emergency room. Hospitals are a safe place to seek care.
Heart Health While Quarantining
Another potential long-term effect of COVID-19 is the unhealthy habits we have fostered. As many of us are preferring to stay at home, there is less opportunity for physical activity. Additionally, under such tense times, many of us may be stress eating. These unhealthy habits create increased causes of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes- key risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Try these methods to practice heart health habits while quarantining:
- Don’t bring junk food into the home. Remember, if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it.
- Go to the grocery store with a plan.
- Try protein-dense snacks that will fill you up quicker such as nuts and seeds.
- Swap out what you already love! For example, try frozen Greek yogurt over ice cream or dark chocolate over milk chocolate.
- Look to Youtube and apps to find at-home exercises that don’t require any equipment.