COVID-19 has changed all aspects of our lives – our schedules, our surroundings and our diet and exercise. Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and often starts with unhealthy habits. Unfortunately, the pandemic isn’t predicted to improve these numbers. Keep reading for facts and statistics about heart disease during COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one American dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease, and approximately 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year. It is also the leading cause of death in Kansas, accounting for approximately 37% of all deaths in Kansas, as reported by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
While stay-at-home orders have limited outdoor activities and caused gyms to shut their doors, exercise habits have decreased across the nation. With less physical activity and increased consumption of unhealthy foods, 27% of people have gained weight since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a survey from Pubmed.
Research shows heart disease-related deaths have risen during the pandemic. According to Dr. Wadhera, a cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, fewer people were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease during the pandemic. However, as it turned out, patients with urgent heart conditions weren’t seeking medical attention because they feared coming in contact with COVID-19 at the hospital. Fifty-eight percent of people chose to stay home when experiencing heart attack symptoms, a study from Northwell Health shows.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, doctors advise you to seek help as hospitals are safe environments to receive care — even during the pandemic.
Symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest discomfort. The discomfort often lasts for more than a few minutes or comes and goes. The discomfort often feels like uncomfortable pain, fullness, squeezing or pressuring.
- Discomfort in arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath.
- Other symptoms. Nausea, lightheadedness, cold sweats.
Keep in mind, symptoms are different in men and women. The most common symptom for both genders is chest pain/discomfort. However, according to the American Heart Association, women are more likely to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea and back or jaw pain. Women may also experience extreme fatigue, anxiety, sleep disturbances and indigestion.
Heart disease is the leading killer of women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Dr. Jennifer Mieres at the Zucker School of Medicine said that women are at the highest risk, especially at mid-life. “It’s a volatile time for women, as menopause transition is marked by changes in body composition, fat distribution and an increase in cholesterol levels,” she said in an interview. The American Heart Association shows 90% of women are at risk to get heart disease throughout their lifetime, but 80% of cardiovascular diseases are preventable – which is why it’s important to take steps early.
What is COVID-19 doing to the heart?
It’s a known fact that people with pre-existing health conditions, like diabetes or asthma, are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19, as it weakens the body’s immune system and ability to fight the illness. Someone with pre-existing health conditions oftentimes gets higher fevers, lower oxygen levels and more unstable blood pressure levels than people with no pre-existing health conditions.
Even after recovery, COVID-19 may affect the heart. Studies show many survivors of the virus experience heart damage, even if they had a mild case of COVID-19 and didn’t have any underlying health problems. The cardiac injuries often seen in COVID-19 patients are myocarditis, which means an inflamed heart muscle that can lead to heart failure down the road, according to the American Heart Association.
Nearly one-fourth of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have been diagnosed with cardiovascular complications, according to the American Heart Association, which is the reason for 40% of COVID related deaths.
To prevent yourself from COVID-19, don’t forget to:
- Practice social distancing by staying 6 feet apart from others.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and use sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Don’t shake hands!
- Avoid touching your face, especially your nose, eyes and mouth.
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Disinfect your home and workplace.
The leading killer
These are the most important things you should do to prevent heart disease:
Get checked annually
And be prepared for your appointments. Do your research about your family tree and whether your family has a history of heart disease. You should also research to learn the optimal levels for your gender and age, and figure out what steps you can take to maintain those numbers.
Know the symptoms
Regular symptoms of heart attacks are pressure in your chest and difficulty breathing, however, men and women experience heart attacks differently. Women tend to have more symptoms, such as back, stomach and shoulder pain, as well as nausea.
Find a healthcare provider
Work with a health partner that can make you a personalized wellness plan that fits your daily routines. They will be able to make you a plan for healthy eating and staying active while holding you accountable.
Kansas City Concierge Medicine makes patients customized treatment plans. Fill out a consultation request or give us a call at 816-214-5276 to speak to a physician.
Complications during pregnancy
If you have any pregnancy complications, make sure to tell your doctor about it. Recent studies have shown a connection with heart disease, as “pregnancy is a stress test for the body, and a possible marker for heart disease later in life,” said Dr. Jennifer Mieres at the Zucker School of Medicine in an article for the American Heart Association.
Tips for a healthy heart:
While research, appointments and wellness plans are extremely important, there are also simpler steps you can add to your daily routine to help prevent heart disease. Here are some tips for a happy heart:
- Get up and get moving. Take a walk during lunch or go for a short run after work. Even just doing housework gets the blood flowing and burns calories! Anything helps! As comfortable as the couch is, sitting for too long may shorten your lifespan, according to the American Heart Association.
- A handful of nuts, a piece of dark chocolate and a glass of red wine a day is good for your heart, according to the Mayo Clinic. Who said a heart-healthy diet isn’t a tasty one!
- Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Make sure to get your protein, fats and whole grains in the morning to maintain a healthy weight. And don’t forget your fruits and vegetables, as they contain loads of minerals and vitamins!
- Swap out your daily coffee for tea. One to three cups of tea each day helps lower the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
- Make sleep a priority. Get eight hours of sleep a night to avoid being at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. According to a study by the American Heart Association, those who get less than six hours of sleep a night are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack.
- Stress can lead to factors that can lead to heart diseases, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. So try to slow down during your busy days to stress less.
For more specifics on what you should eat more of, here are some tips for a heart-healthy diet:
- For grain, choose whole-wheat, whole-grain or high-fiber pasta, bread, rice, and flour.
- Stay away from white flour, muffins, cornbread, cakes, pies and frozen waffles.
- Saturated fats. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should have no more than 11-13 grams of saturated fats a day.
- Stay away from trans fats.
- Healthy fats are found in olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oils, margarine, nuts and avocados.
- Stay away from butter, gravy, cream sauces
- For protein, eat low-fat dairy products, eggs, fish, soybeans and lean ground meats.
- Choose low-salt items such as herbs and spices, salt-free seasoning blends and reduced-salt canned soups and condiments.
It’s never too late to swap those unhealthy habits for a healthier lifestyle! While you should follow these steps as much as you can, don’t forget to give yourself an indulgence every now and then. It’s okay to treat yourself to the occasional chocolate bar or candies, the goal is to not make a habit of it and steer away from it as much as you can. It’s all about balance and finding heart-healthy habits that are doable and enjoyable.
If you have any questions about maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle, fill out a consultation request or give us a call at 816-214-5276 to speak to a physician.