In a few short months, Ohioans have learned how social distancing helps to flatten the curve. Since March, our world has been changing – from schedules to events to regular medical care.
By flattening the curve, we avoid overwhelming our health care system. Unfortunately, in a pandemic, despite many cancellations, heart and vascular disease are not canceled. Heart attack and stroke still happen.
What are the signs/symptoms of a heart or vascular emergency?
Don’t ignore these signs:
- Difficulty breathing
- Visibly uncomfortable
- Shortness of breath
- Heart racing or palpitations
- Severe leg swelling
- Nausea and vomiting
For stroke, remember BE FAST:
- Loss of Balance
- Trouble seeing out of one or both Eyes
- Facial weakness
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 911.
What if someone has new symptoms but not so severe?
Keep a log if you are aware of a physical change or a new symptom, write down questions you want to ask your doctor. Routine healthcare by virtual visit or even a phone call is not canceled.
To adapt to the changes brought on by the new coronavirus, the clinicians and teams at OhioHealth have launched even more widespread telehealth and video appointments for patients to touch base, evaluate symptoms, and allow for evaluation of and follow up for heart and vascular conditions. Elective or routine testing and heart checks can be rescheduled – we are all working to keep patients’ hearts healthy by keeping the timing of routine checks flexible.
Bottom line: focusing on heart health is not canceled – even in a time of social distancing and working to flatten the curve.
How can you protect yourself from the new coronavirus and stay heart healthy? What’s important from a heart and vascular standpoint?
While our world has changed, thanks to COVID-19, it doesn’t mean you should stop taking care of your heart.
Here are 5 things to consider –
Always take medications as your doctor has prescribed. Be sure to keep refilling them as needed. Keep your regular schedule – yes, with medications, but also with food, rest, and physical activity.
2. Stay physically active
It’s the ultimate way to multitask for your heart and circulation:
- Take a walk
- Stand up and sit back down in a chair
- Do some light stretching
- Lifting weights
These are all activities that help manage stress, keep your immunity strong, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Physical activity doesn’t have to be perfect – remember that 10-15 minutes twice a day, most days of the week meets current recommended guidelines for physical activity. Learn about and give meditation a try. Meditation can help with biofeedback and stress management, lowers blood pressure, and has been shown to support heart health.
3. Continue to eat with your heart in mind
What are you eating? Are you experimenting with whatever is left in the pantry? Heart-healthy eating hasn’t been canceled – choose fresh vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and avoid processed foods.
And while it’s easy to mindlessly munch when you don’t have much to do, you still want to keep your portions in check.
4. Keep up with sleep
Are you sleeping? Good sleep habits help heart health. From preventing arrhythmia to helping blood pressure stay at goal, maintaining your sleep schedule will do your heart good.
5. Track what you can
Collect data at home to discuss with your medical team. You can track blood pressure, heart rate, and weight – if you’re managing heart conditions like hypertension, arrhythmia or heart failure.
Stay safe, Ohio, but don’t ignore an emergency.
Dr. Anne Albers is a cardiologist with OhioHealth in Columbus, Ohio. She is a cardiovascular imaging specialist focusing on echocardiography, cardiac stress testing, and vascular studies. Dr. Albers maintains an active consultative cardiovascular practice; her clinical interests include cardiovascular disease management for women, cardiac issues for athletes, primary and secondary prevention of heart and vascular disease, and heart disease in diabetes. At OhioHealth, she developed the Women’s Heart & Vascular Program, is co-director of the Sports Cardiology Program, and is a member of the OhioHealth Vascular Institute.
She holds RVT (VT) designation from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, is a diplomate of the American Board of Vascular Medicine and is a member of the Society for Vascular Medicine. She was the first social media editor for the journal Vascular Medicine, Journal for the Society for Vascular Medicine and serves on the Vascular Medicine editorial board.