Take care of your Heart during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Chandigarh, September 28, 2020: “Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) is the leading cause of illness and death throughout the world.
Its prevalence is steadily increasing in India and risk factors such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, abnormal rise in blood cholesterol, smoking, central obesity and physical inactivity are contributing to its high prevalence.
Rapid urbanization, change in lifestyle particularly sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity are contributing immensely for the growing burden of CVD in India.
During this ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, these cardiac patients are faced with a double-edged threat – one of heart disease itself and second is of increased complications following COVID infection, stated Prof Rajesh Vijayvergiya from Deptt. of Cardiology, PGIMER on the eve of World Heart Day being observed on 29th September.
Prof. Vijayvergiya observed that patients with underlying heart disease are at increased risk of complications such as intensive care unit admission, ventilator support and also death following COVID infection.
He said that COVID infection may lead to two types of cardiac complications one is acute, during the infection and other is chronic when the patient has recovered from the infection.
Hence, heart patients who have recovered from the COVID infection should also be evaluated for any progression of underlying heart disease or a new manifestation, especially those elderly with associated co-morbid illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, renal failure and chronic respiratory diseases.
Physical fitness and regular exercise is an important aspect of the physical and mental wellbeing of an individual.
With less physical activity and work from home, there is a likelihood that one may put on weight during the ongoing pandemic.
Try to maintain your Body mass index of less than 25 kg/meter
Reduction of body weight can be achieved by an appropriate balance of physical activity and calories/food intake.
A person should take a regular walk or exercise at the nearby park of the locality.
Avoid overcrowding, busy places during exercise to prevent cross-infection.
One should have adequate ventilation during exercise with the face mask on.
Following home isolation, social distancing and loneliness and non-interaction with relatives/friends, there is an increasing incidence of psychological stress in the community.
This metal stress can lead to certain behavioural changes such as smoking and alcohol consumption, becoming overweight, physical inactivity, overeating and non-compliance to medicines which further increases the risk of heart diseases.
Any evident psychological stress during an ongoing pandemic can be modified by meditation, yoga, exercise, change of workplace environment, involvement in certain creative activities and if required psychological counselling, suggested Prof Vijayvergiya.
Certain basic principles during the ongoing pandemic will help to fight against both COVID and cardiac diseases:
1. Be compliant and take regular medicines for heart disease.
2. Don’t indulge in self medication.
3. Try to continue a healthy lifestyle during this COVID pandemic.
4. Seek medical attention immediately if you have COVID infection or cardiac emergency.
Follow the advice and medications as per the physician’s advice.
5. Hand hygiene, wearing face mask and social distancing is a must for all individuals.

Action to be taken for prevention of heart disease

* Have a healthy food style. Increase uptake of vegetables (>200gm), fruits (>200gm), cereals and fibers (> 20gm/d) in daily diet. Salt intake should be < 5 g/d. Food with high saturated fat contents like Red meat, Dairy products, Coconut and palm oils; with high trans-fat contents like Deep-fried fast foods, Bakery products, Packaged snack foods, Margarine should be avoided.
* All healthy adults should do 30 – 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day, at least five days a week.
* Treatment of abnormal lipids by exercise, weight reduction and drugs.
* Stop smoking and tobacco chewing.
* Have blood pressure <140/90 mmHg. Those with diabetes and renal failure should have strict control of high blood pressure. Control of blood pressure is achieved by low salt intake, appropriate body weight maintenance and medications.
* Have fasting blood sugar <110 mg%. Control of blood sugar can be done with diet modification, appropriate body weight maintenance and drugs.
* Be physically active. Have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of <25 Kg/m2. The ideal weight can be calculated by height in cm – 100. Reduction of body weight can be achieved by an appropriate balance of physical activity, caloric intake and formal behavioural programs when indicated.
* Psychological stress at home and at the workplace can be modified by yoga, exercise, changing the workplace environment, and psychological counselling.
* Compliance to the drugs prescribed by the physician for heart disease. Drugs like aspirin and statin should not be taken without physician advice.

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