February is American Heart Month, which is a great reminder for all of us to adopt or maintain healthy lifestyle choices that help us avoid heart disease. Heart health has never been more important than it is right now: COVID-19 adds new risk factors for heart disease, while quarantining may lead to unhealthy habits such as insufficient (or, let’s face it, non-existent) exercise, poor diet, and increased alcohol use. This Heart Month, we’re providing tips for healthy living and offering some ways that we can help you and your employees prioritize heart health.
What’s heart disease, exactly?
“Heart disease” actually refers to several types of heart conditions. In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the flow of blood to the heart. CAD is caused when plaque, or deposits of cholesterol, builds up in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body. This buildup causes arteries to narrow over time, which can partially (or completely) block blood flow.
How has COVID-19 impacted heart health?
Apart from the risks posed directly by the virus, COVID-19 has endangered many other aspects of overall wellness, including heart health. During the pandemic, many people have delayed or avoided going to hospitals for heart attacks and strokes or even for regular checkups. Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as eating poorly, drinking more alcohol, and limiting physical activity have also contributed to laying the groundwork for bad health habits that may lead to heart disease in the future.
Although COVID-19 primarily manifests as a respiratory ailment, researchers have found about one-fourth of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 infections have had previous heart damage. Troublingly, the CDC reports that people with heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are six times more likely to be hospitalized and twelve times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who don’t have underlying health conditions.
What are the main risk factors for heart disease?
Heart disease remains a major health concern for many. There are four main risk factors for heart disease, and nearly half of all Americans have at least one of these:1. High blood pressure
The two leading causes of death in the U.S. are heart disease and stroke. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the leading risk factor for both. Almost half of US adults (45%, or 108 million) have hypertension or are taking medication for the condition. Although 30 million of these individuals need medication, they haven’t been prescribed any — or are simply not taking it.
Hypertension by the numbers:
There are two stages of hypertension, with the second stage being higher risk.
When you measure your blood pressure, you get two numbers. The higher of the two numbers is your systolic blood pressure; the smaller number is your diastolic pressure. Hypertension is diagnosed when:
- Systolic blood pressure is 130-139 mm Hg OR your diastolic blood pressure is 80-89 mm Hg. (Stage 1)
- Systolic Blood Pressure is ≥140 mm Hg OR your Diastolic Blood Pressure ≥90 mm Hg (Stage 2)
2. High cholesterol
When your cholesterol levels are high, plaque can build up on the walls of your arteries. Diabetes can contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels, as can obesity, smoking, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity.
3. Unhealthy weight
Adults with obesity, compared to those with a healthy weight, are at an increased risk for coronary artery disease.
Smoking tobacco damages blood vessels, leading directly to heart disease. Despite knowing the risks associated with tobacco, more than 35 million U.S. adults are currently smokers.
How can I maintain heart health during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Although the world is focused on the health risks of COVID-19 right now, the dangers of heart disease haven’t gone away. Based on suggestions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are some ways you can protect your heart during COVID, especially if you have an underlying heart condition.
- Take all precautions that guard against transmission of COVID-19: Wash hands regularly, observe social distancing, and wear a mask.
- Manage and control your blood pressure, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension.
- Take all medications as prescribed, especially heart medications.
- Make sure you have enough medication in case you can’t get to the pharmacy due to an emergency. Keep at least a two-week supply of meds on hand.
- Seek immediate care if you have been exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, or if you’re experiencing some of these symptoms: extreme fatigue, trouble breathing, unexplained swelling, or chest pain.
- Take care of your day-to-day health by getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night and aiming for two and a half hours of moderate exercise each week.
How can the Eden Care Team help you and your workforce fight heart disease?
The good news about heart disease is that scientists have been studying it for generations. As such, the knowledge base is robust, treatments are numerous, and medications are plentiful. In most cases, heart disease can be preventable, and your Eden Health Care Team can help you maintain your day-to-day health. By sharing holistic health information among clinicians and providing diligent follow-up care, we can help you:
- Ensure that your body gets the right nutrients through a healthy diet
- Measure your blood pressure and assist you in managing it
- Find resources to stop smoking
- Find ways to improve your quality of sleep
- Maintain a healthy weight for your body
- Manage and nurture your mental health
Everyone has different bodies, minds, genetics, family history, and circumstances that impact their health. Eden’s Care Team provides comprehensive care based on each patient’s specific health needs. Mitigating risks to heart health, especially in the face of COVID-19, our integrated 360 approach to healthcare is essential to staying healthy in 2021 and beyond.
Want more information on how to maintain heart health? Download our free checklist to guide your next conversation with your health provider.
This document and its contents are provided for informational purposes only, and not intended to be, and should not be understood or treated as, a substitute for professional medical advice around COVID-19, its risks or symptoms, or to take the place of any local, state and national laws and guidelines around COVID-19. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.