Staying indoors because of the pandemic? Don’t neglect your heart health.
As COVID-19 infections continue to rise in the U.S., many states and cities have begun to issue stricter stay-at-home orders. Although these restrictions will protect you from contracting the coronavirus, these rules could be harmful to your heart if you don’t take special care of your cardiovascular health.
As you spend more time at home, you may forgo your normal exercise routine and indulge in sugar- and fat-laden foods. You may also be feeling more stressed. Although it’s understandable you would seek comfort during these uncertain times, these habits can be damaging to your heart over the long haul. Now is the time to take special care of your heart, especially if you already suffer from heart disease that puts you at greater risk of a serious COVID-19 infection.
How to Take Care of Your Heart at Home
Serious cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and hypertension won’t make you more susceptible to contracting COVID-10, but you are more likely to experience severe symptoms. This means it’s vital that you keep a close eye on your heart health as you shelter at home. Here are six ways to do that:
- Stay Active. With your local gym closed, you probably aren’t getting enough exercise to maintain your heart health. But you don’t need to visit a gym or set up a gym in your home. Taking a brisk walk in a park or around your neighborhood, while wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing, is a great cardio workout. Practice yoga to stretch your muscles, or buy a pair of light hand weights for some strength conditioning.
- Eat Healthy. Rather than dining out or ordering takeout, use this time to cook up healthy meals. When you prepare food at home, you get to control the ingredients and can restrict the amount of salt, fat, and sugar in the dishes. Plan your menus around fresh vegetables, lean proteins like chicken and seafood, and fruits.
- Manage Stress. Being cooped up inside can make anyone feel stressed and maybe a bit angry. But stress and anger take a toll on your heart. Learn to dial down the stress with relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or simply taking a deep breath.
- Monitor Your Health. Due to the pandemic, you may not be able to visit your doctor’s office as often as you did before. That shouldn’t stop you from monitoring your heart health from home, however. You can purchase an at-home blood pressure monitor to measure your blood pressure to see if it’s within a normal range. And check your weight daily for any significant spikes that could be detrimental to your heart.
- Keep in Touch with Your Cardiologist. Although you may, for safety reasons, decide not to enter your doctor’s office, you can still keep in touch with your cardiologist. Many medical professionals offer telemedicine visits to review your health status and make sure you’re taking your medications.
- Get Enough Sleep. A good night’s sleep maintains your physical and psychological well-being. It’s also necessary for a healthy heart. Fitbit, a manufacturer of wearable fitness trackers, compared resting heart rate data from users in January prior to the pandemic to February, March, and April when stay-at-home orders began in earnest. The company found that resting heart rate, a marker for heart health, improved in late winter and spring. It pointed to two factors for this improvement: more active minutes and more consistent, longer sleep times. With people going out less, they are more likely to sleep at the same time each night, which leads to a healthier sleep pattern of at least seven hours.
If you do experience symptoms that could indicate a COVID-19 infection (dry cough, fever, chills, shortness of breath, or loss of taste of smell), contact your doctor immediately. Any signs of a cardiovascular event like a stroke or heart attack — chest pain, numbness in the arm, slurred speech — also require immediate medical attention. At that point, you will need to leave your home for evaluation and treatment.
We’re Here For You
At Tri-City Cardiology, our physicians and team members are available for in-person visits and telemedicine appointments. We follow all safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms or just want to check in with us, don’t hesitate to make an appointment.