Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year—that's one in every four deaths. As well, people with poor cardiovascular health are at increased risk of complications and severe illness from COVID-19.
During severe COVID infection, heart function may decrease. Heart changes in people who have recovered from the virus include irregular heart rate, inflammation of the heart muscle or the sac around the heart, elevated heart rate, and abnormal heart rhythms. Although it can’t be predicted which COVID patients will experience these changes, those with healthy cardiovascular systems are less likely to have severe symptoms.
The good news is that heart disease is largely preventable. Devoting a little time every day to care for yourself can go a long way toward protecting your heart health. Studies show that self-care measures, such as moderate exercise, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and keeping doctor’s appointments, can help keep blood pressure in a healthy range and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Get moving. Just thirty minutes of physical activity each day can strengthen your cardiovascular health. Even during these colder months, you can still walk or run outdoors if you prepare for the cold by dressing in layers. Indoor workouts using a treadmill, mini trampoline, or stationary bike are another option. Or try an online yoga class to build flexibility, strength, and balance while calming your body and mind.
Eat healthy. Consider switching out less healthy snacks for options like fruits and veggies, and experiment with heart-healthy recipes that are low in sodium and saturated fats. Add variety to your meals by using a fresh herb or spice as a salt substitute.
Rest and recharge. Carve out a little time each day to relieve stress. Read a good book, enjoy a mug of herbal tea, meditate, or take a warm bath. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night—quality sleep decreases the work of your heart, as blood pressure and heart rate go down at night. Make your bedroom a calm, restful space, and resist the temptation to stay up late, watching TV or scrolling through social media feeds.
Stay connected. While COVID precautions have us avoiding large gatherings and maintaining physical distancing, building in time to connect with others keeps our hearts emotionally healthy. Keeping connections strong helps prevent feeling isolated. Stay in touch with family and friends virtually or in person while practicing safety measures.
Take ownership of your heart health. Be mindful about your health and regularly monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar if needed. Keep an eye on your weight to make sure it stays within or moves toward a healthy range. Take your medications as prescribed and keep your medical appointments. Being aware of your health status is key to making positive change.
The new cardiovascular pavilion at Mount Nittany Medical Center provides lifesaving cardiovascular medicine. The 26,000-square-foot cardiovascular pavilion includes updated cardiac catheterization lab and electrophysiology lab spaces, with new imaging and monitoring technology to serve the growing number of people who trust us with their heart. Learn more about cardiovascular services at Mount Nittany Health at mountnittany.org/cardiology.
This article was published in the Centre Daily Times.