Protecting Your Heart & Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak
By now, you’ve undoubtedly, heard about the increased risk of serious complications from coronavirus due to heart disease. In fact, the CDC specifically mentions cardiovascular problems along with pulmonary issues and age as being primary risk factors for severe illness. While this is in no way a guarantee that you will have a serious case, or even have symptoms at all, this guidance shows why physical distancing and following stay at home orders is so important.
No one is sick around me. Will I catch this?
Researchers have found that a large, but as yet unknown, cross-section of infected coronavirus patients have no symptoms at all (asymptomatic) or have very mild symptoms that are nothing like the horror stories we see in the news. This means that friends and family who may be helping you through this time could be infected and don’t even know it. While there is no need for panic or paranoia, we must also be vigilant and assume that anyone coming to our house could transmit the disease.
What can I do to stay healthy?
Now is a great time to start following your cardiologist’s recommendations for a better lifestyle, if you haven’t done so already. While we are trying to control the virus’s spread through CDC recommended protocols like washing hands frequently, maintaining distance between individuals and wearing face coverings in public areas, there is more we can do to strengthen our immune systems – our first and last line of defense against the coronavirus and any other infection.
- Replace highly processed, high fat and high sugar foods with lean meats, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. The vitamins we receive from these healthy foods are critical in supporting our immune system. Even if you are immunocompromised, improving your diet can go a long way toward fighting off opportunistic infections.
- Despite being housebound at the moment, you can still prioritize exercise. If you have any questions about appropriate exercises at home, please contact our office. Of course, you do not want to overdo it and injure yourself, but there are creative ways to exercise within your house or in your yard to improve both your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Get an appropriate amount of rest. Your body needs to relax and recharge. Even though it may be tempting to stay up late and wake up early reading about the news and worrying about what is to come, it is actually very counterproductive. Getting your recommended amount of sleep – somewhere between 7 to 8 hours depending on your age – is critical to fighting infection.
- Continue taking your medication. It is never a good idea to arbitrarily change or discontinue any medications – only do so with the advice and consultation of your physician. In fact, taking your medication is critically important to manage any diseases you may have.
- Last, but certainly not least, is to manage your stress. Stress is not only counterproductive to heart health, but it can also reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. We know that eliminating stress is easier said than done, especially during times like these, but try to figure out ways to manage your stress. Whether it is guided meditation, mindfulness, exercise or talking it through with your spouse or friends, keeping stress levels low is truly important.
Hopefully, we will see a breakthrough treatment or vaccination sometime soon, and we may be able to return to our normal lives sooner rather than later. For now, be mindful that your cardiovascular condition increases risk. You should therefore be extremely careful with what you do and who you see until we know more about this disease.
What if I need to see my doctor?
Remember that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and as it stands, far more deadly than the coronavirus. If you have an urgent or emergency situation, you should immediately call 911 or head to the emergency room. Do not delay your care because you were worried about getting infected or because you believe that emergency room facilities are somehow compromised. Hospitals recognize that emergency care continues and are properly staffed.
For non-urgent visits, we ask that you contact our office to schedule or confirm your appointment and see your options. We are still seeing new patients in person when appropriate or necessary. We are also directing our existing patients to take advantage of telehealth consultations and visits which can handle many routine concerns. We are also continuing to provide diagnostic testing in our offices.
What if I do get sick?
If you begin to feel ill, the most important next step is to get advice from your medical professionals.. Stay calm and follow the advice of your medical professionals. Stay in touch with them regularly. This is also a good time to let family members and caretakers know that you may be infected. It will be helpful to have someone checking on you in case symptoms worsen. If you begin to have trouble breathing, run a very high fever, or have other concerning symptoms call 911 immediately.
The bottom line
Ultimately, the lifestyle changes and recommendations from your physician and cardiologist for heart and general health are truly useful and practical for improving your immune response to COVID-19. Eat well, exercise, sleep well and manage your stress as best as you can to improve your overall health and reduce the risk of serious complications due to this or any disease.