February is American Heart Month! Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work, or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? One reason, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is that we’re more successful at meeting our health goals when we work on them with others.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Most middle-aged and young adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or being a smoker or overweight. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. In fact, One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease and approximately 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
Coronavirus Risk and Heart Problems
If you have any form of cardiovascular disease, you should be more cautious about COVID-19, practicing social distancing and other ways to prevent yourself from getting coronavirus.
Some heart patients may have a higher risk of contracting the disease, and some may be more prone to complications if they get it. In addition, the virus can cause heart muscle or vessel damage, resulting in severe problems.
Generally, people over 65 years old with coronary artery disease or high blood pressure may be at greater risk of severe outcomes. People with heart disease or those who have had a stroke are already at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. The virus may damage the heart and slow down a patient’s blood flow to the heart and brain.
Patients with congenital heart disease, especially in those whose congenital defects have not been surgically corrected, may be at a higher risk of complications if affected by COVID-19, as their blood circulation has already been compromised. And people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) are at increased risk of complications from COVID-19 because many of these people also have diabetes and heart disease, which are among the more critical underlying conditions that worsen COVID-19 infection outcomes.
Why Connecting is Good for Your Heart
Feeling connected with others and having positive, close relationships benefit our overall health, including our blood pressure and weight. Having people in our lives who motivate and care for us helps, as do feelings of closeness and companionship.
Follow these heart-healthy lifestyle tips to protect your heart. It will be easier and more successful if you work on them with others, including by texting or phone calls if needed.
- Be more physically active.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a nutritious diet.
- Quit smoking.
- Reduce stress.
- Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep.
- Track your heart health stats.
You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go.
Invite family, friends, colleagues, or members of your community to join you in your efforts to be more physically active:
- Ask a colleague to walk “with you” on a regular basis, put the date on both your calendars, and text or call to make sure you both get out for a walk.
- Get a friend or family member to sign up for the same online exercise class, such as a dance class. Make it a regular date!
- Grab your kids, put on music, and do jumping jacks, skip rope, or dance in your living room or yard.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier. Eating a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups and lowering salt intake are great places to start. *Contact a medical professional for specific diet needs.
To help you quit, ask others for support or join an online support group. Research shows that people are much more likely to quit if their spouse, friend, or sibling does. You’ll find many free resources to help you quit, such as apps, a motivational text service, and a chat line at Smokefree.gov.
If you need extra motivation to quit, consider those around you: Breathing other people’s smoke, called secondhand smoke, is dangerous. Many adult nonsmokers die of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.
Reducing stress helps your heart health. Set goals with a friend or family member to do a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, or meditation, or participate in an online stress-management program together. Physical activity also helps reduce stress. Talk to a qualified mental health provider or someone else you trust.
Sleeping 7–8 hours a night helps to improve heart health. De-stressing will help you sleep, as does getting a 30-minute daily dose of sunlight. Take a walk instead of a late afternoon nap! Instead of looking at your phone or the TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.
Track Your Heart Health Stats, Together
Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart-healthy track. Ask your friends or family to join you in the effort.
Spring Hills Cardiac Resources
Cardiovascular health at every age is critical to living a full and happy life. We recognize this here at Spring Hills, and we make sure that our residents and patients have every opportunity to optimize their heart health with innovative, enjoyable, accessible activities across our continuum, especially through our Cardiac Program that provides end-to-end cardiac care to ensure an individual’s seamless and safe transition from hospital to home.
Alexander Markowits, Founder and President/CEO of Spring Hills, adds, “Our priority is always the optimal health of our residents. By providing these innovative heart health programs, activities, encouraging participation, and celebrating success, we enable our residents to live to their fullest potential.”
Spring Hills promotes cardiovascular health for all of its residents through a comprehensive program of physical activity, nutrition, and mindfulness. Our programs are the result of data-driven research and thoughtful analysis applied to the compassionate care that ensures we can all Live Happy.