The pandemic’s toll on heart health

Last Modified: 2/21/2022

heart health and pandemic

It's no surprise that COVID-19 has taken a toll on us all, but it seems that our cardiovascular health may have taken a bigger hit than we realized. Roy Robertson, MD, president, Parkview Heart Institute, discusses a recent survey revealing the impact the current pandemic has had on Americans’ heart health.

The survey

Recently, a national survey conducted by the Cleveland Clinic Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute revealed that the pandemic has negatively impacted many Americans’ lifestyles, habits and cardiovascular health. As we near the second anniversary of this global event, the survey highlighted the fact that many people continue to face ongoing consequences to their overall well-being, with the most concerning impacts including:

  • 77% of Americans say they often or sometimes sit throughout the day.
  • 1 in 5 Americans (22%) revealed increased responsibilities at home, which means they have less time to maintain an exercise regimen.

Additionally, the survey also uncovered that the pandemic had taken a severe toll on individuals’ heart health in the following ways:

  • 2 out of 5 people (41%) have experienced at least one heart-related issue since March 2020 (the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak), with top problems including shortness of breath (18%), dizziness (15%), increased blood pressure (15%) and chest pain (13%).
  • 1 in 4 Americans who tested positive for COVID-19 reported that their diagnosis had impacted their cardiac or heart health (27%).
Reasons behind the decline

We’re all having to multitask in numerous aspects of our lives right now, making us all less efficient. Because of this, we have less time to carve out for ourselves. Less time to focus on the critical components of our health like diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, mental and emotional well-being, yearly checkups, routine screenings, blood work and more.

Due to the pandemic and this unrelenting pressure, many people avoided hospitals and healthcare offices, worried about contracting COVID-19. This fear disrupted those regular screenings and checkups needed to detect health issues. And while we’ve noticed some improvement as we continue to navigate this new world, we still see people who find it difficult to reconnect with the healthcare realm to get their symptoms assessed or health problems solved.

As a result, we’re watching a percentage of our population feel the effects. We’re finding more and more individuals struggling with symptoms related to their cardiovascular health, including high blood pressure, shortness of breath, feeling less active, palpitations, and even chest pain. In addition, this constant state of unwellness has generated a certain level of anxiety, which is not helpful either.

What Parkview’s doing to help

At Parkview, we recognize the direct and indirect impact COVID-19 has had and is having on the cardiovascular health of our community. Fortunately, our knowledge base regarding the impact of infection and the benefits of vaccination has grown immensely, allowing us to offer more effective therapy. We’ve also learned a great deal about managing viral infection and addressing the safety of everyone who enters the healthcare facility. We continue to educate people in hopes of helping them understand and feel comfortable with the process, striving to make it easier and more accessible to engage with physicians either electronically or in person.

Additionally, we’ve recognized that personal care habits have also changed throughout the pandemic, creating the potential for a secondary decline in cardiovascular health. But, there is a silver lining. The good news is that healthy changes, no matter how small, in our personal care habits are achievable and can help improve our overall health and well-being.

As physicians, we have plenty of ways to treat disease but limited ways of curing it. That’s why we want to prevent those illnesses before they start. This is done by steering clear of or eliminating tobacco products, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding stress, eating a healthy diet, exercising, adopting good sleep habits, monitoring blood pressure, and more. Taking these steps can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by almost 70% over the course of your lifetime. By focusing on your individual needs and taking advantage of the available technologies and even the more straightforward aspects of preventive care, you can set yourself up for success.

I’m hoping that we’re at a turning point in the pandemic and this disruptive phase and that we can all start to take ownership of our lives and think about what we want our future to look like for ourselves and our loved ones. Life won’t be like it was in the past, but it can still be extremely fruitful. Our goal is to help empower people to take control of their health and the steps to optimize it.

 

Classes and events this month

Throughout February, Parkview Heart Institute will host a series of events to increase awareness of heart disease and encourage heart-healthy habits. Please visit Parkview’s classes and events page to learn more or register for an event.

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