Research shows that there was an increase in deaths due to heart disease in the early months of the pandemic. With all of the deaths that have occurred over the last year due to the Coronavirus, it’s easy to overlook the increased rate of deaths from conditions unrelated to this overwhelming pandemic. Researchers have some ideas of why this increase has occurred and some of them may surprise you.
It’s clear to many of us that patients with preexisting cardiac conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity are at a higher risk of having the worst outcomes from COVID-19. From everything we know about this virus, it is evident that it can easily overcome even the strongest and healthiest patients. To fight back against the virus your body needs all of the energy and strength it can muster. Pre-existing conditions like heart disease, asthma, and high blood pressure weaken the immune response in some patients. Patients who have already been diagnosed with heart disease or other cardiac conditions have become acutely aware of their risks.
Unfortunately, this awareness has led patients to avoid doctors’ offices and hospitals even when dangerous symptoms occur. As the rate of heart disease deaths has increased, the rate of heart disease diagnoses has decreased. This isn’t because fewer people have the condition, rather because fewer people are seeking help for their concerning symptoms. We understand the instinct to avoid places where you fear you’ll more likely encounter the disease. Hopefully, this information will encourage you to seek treatment anyways. Additionally, it’s important to note that hospitals and doctors’ offices have gotten more adept at protecting their patients as the pandemic has gone on.
We share all of this information with you not to strike fear, but to remind you that even during seasons like these it’s always important to prioritize your heart health. If you are a patient who has been diagnosed with or is at high risk for heart disease, here are four things you should do to stay healthy while we continue to navigate this pandemic.
1. Find New Ways to Exercise
So many of our patients have done an excellent job at quarantining to protect their health. We commend you for that. But, as you have stayed away from gyms, personal trainers, tennis courts, and golf courses some have neglected to find new ways to get their daily exercise.
Thankfully, many gyms and fitness companies have heard the call of their clients and began to offer online classes. If you love pilates, yoga, or dance fitness, it may be just as easy as ever to get your workout in from home. But you don’t have to spend a single dime to get a good workout and prevent heart disease. Walking, jogging, and bike riding are simple and completely free ways to keep your heart pumping.
2. Develop Better Coping Skills
In times of stress, we all have a set of things we reach to help us feel better. For some, it’s meditation and drinking plenty of water. However, for many more of us, we cope with our negative feelings like stress, loneliness, and boredom in less healthy ways. A poor diet, an increase in alcohol consumption, and more time spent surfing the channels or scrolling the internet are some of the unhealthy calling cards of the last year. Unfortunately, these are also some of the habits that lead to a devastating increase in heart disease deaths. If you find yourself turning to poor coping mechanisms to feel better as we all fight this terrible virus, it’s time to start fresh.
It turns out that dehydration can increase your cortisol levels and lead to an increase in stress. So next time you feel anxious, skip the wine and grab a tall glass of water. Have you heard the saying “move your body, change your mind?” It turns out that one of the best ways to reduce stress and change your state of mind is to get some exercise. And finally, it’s important to remember that the food you put in your body has a profound effect on the way you feel.
Whether or not you are at risk of heart disease, a healthy diet is essential for feeling good when the world around you is stressful. Take a moment to consider how your habits have changed for the better or worse as a result of the last year, and make a list of simple ways that you can change for the better.
3. Report Any Concerning Symptoms
Even if you do everything you can to establish good habits, there is still a chance that you’ll experience symptoms due to your heart disease. That’s the unfortunate reality of the disease. If you have concerning symptoms we urge you to report them to your cardiologist. If they are serious enough to be life-threatening, you should act on them immediately. We know the anxiety around hospitals and COVID-19 is serious, but the risk of dying from untreated heart disease could be even higher.
4. Prioritize Your Health
Finally, we hope that you will set your health as a priority for the next phase of your life. Even after COVID-19 is long gone, heart disease will still be a risk factor for far too many Americans. Whether your lifestyle, genetics, or a combination of the two are to blame for your heart disease, your commitment to a heart-healthy lifestyle can help you have a happier, healthier future.
None of us could have anticipated this pandemic and the many ways it would impact our lives. However, what we can do is start over today and begin making better decisions to protect ourselves from the worst outcomes associated with heart disease. If you have concerns about your cardiac health, contact us today.