What We Know about Heart Health and COVID-19
We mostly hear about how COVID-19 affects the lungs. But any serious viral infection can put stress on the heart by forcing it to work faster and harder as the body mobilizes to defend itself. Even more troubling, COVID-19 infection can cause blood clots in the heart’s arteries or attack and weaken the heart muscle itself.
Anyone who is already managing high blood pressure or heart disease should take the potential for damage to their cardiovascular system seriously. Just don’t let vigilance and caution spiral into fear. While the gravity of the link between COVID-19 and cardiovascular health should not be understated, there are proactive ways you can support your heart and protect yourself from infection.
Remember—managing your health during the pandemic is a long game. It’s crucial that you continue to take your medications as prescribed and receive necessary medical care. With this in mind, here are five important heart health strategies to put into play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five Heart Health Strategies During COVID-19
Play It Safe
For months now you’ve been wearing a mask, social distancing, and avoiding crowded areas whenever possible. We know it hasn’t been easy, but keep it up. According to Penn Medicine cardiologist Helene Glassberg, MD, “The number one thing is to continue what you're doing, which is staying at home when possible, practicing safe distancing, and seeking medical attention if you're having problems.” Dr. Glassberg also recommends exercising caution as states experiment with loosening restrictions, advising, “Stay the course for as long as you can to stay well.”
Stick to Your Cardiac Care Plan
There have been conflicting news reports involving some blood pressure medications and COVID-19. Despite what you might have read, don’t stop taking your medications without consulting your doctor. Not only is that never a good idea, but several recent studies indicate that there is no cause for concern when it comes to these medications.
The confusion stemmed from the fact that two common classes of blood pressure drugs, known as angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), affect the same pathways in the body that the coronavirus takes to reach the lungs and the heart. Multiple types of both medications are available—commonly prescribed ACE inhibitors include lisinopril, captopril, and benazepril, while common ARBs include losartan, valsartan, and azilsartan.
For a while, experts were unsure if these shared pathways meant that these medications might either help or harm people with the virus. According to Harvard Health, three different studies have found no evidence of harm for people infected with COVID-19 who continue to take ACE inhibitors and ARBs. While there is still research to be done, experts recommend that people already taking these medications should continue to do so.
The same advice goes for any medications or lifestyle interventions that your doctor has prescribed. If anything, it is more important than ever to remain diligent with your cardiac care plan and stay in communication with your doctor.
Keep Your Doctor’s Appointments
The prospect of sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office can be anxiety-provoking right now. While avoiding the doctor might feel like a safe choice in the short-term, skipping your appointments or ignoring symptoms could mean putting yourself at risk of serious health issues like heart attack and stroke, and increasing the danger of complications should you be exposed to COVID-19.
Talk with your doctor about what safety measures have been put in place to protect you from COVID-19 exposure during your visits. Together you can assess the risks and create a plan to continue monitoring your blood pressure and heart health. Telehealth, which allows you to meet with your doctor via phone or video, may be an option and is often covered by insurance.
If you pair virtual doctor visits with free hand-delivery of your prescription medications through Alto, you can avoid both the waiting room and long lines at the pharmacy. Transferring your prescriptions to Alto is easy and free—we’ll take care of the work for you. We’ll ask you to choose a convenient delivery window, and one of our couriers will bring your medications straight to your door at no additional cost. We can even provide completely contactless delivery if you prefer.
Don’t Drop the Ball on Your Healthy Habits
Even though we’ve been at it for months, staying motivated to keep up healthy habits from home can still be a struggle. The stress and anxiety so many of us are feeling right now may affect our energy levels or cause us to lose interest in our usual activities. When facing distressing news reports or personal hardship, it’s tempting to self-soothe in various unhealthy ways. It’s okay to indulge sometimes, but try not to slide too far into less healthy coping mechanisms for the sake of your heart and your emotional well-being.
Cooking heart-healthy meals at home can boost your overall wellness and serve as a creative outlet. The American Heart Association created this resource for making smart shopping choices on a budget and offers a library of recipes to suit any skill level or craving. Staying active is equally important. If you find it difficult to work out from home, try thinking outside the box of what you’d normally consider fitness. For example, giving your kitchen a good scrub will get your heart rate up, and seeing your countertops sparkle will most likely relieve some stress. If you prefer to keep it simple, a brisk walk around your neighborhood is an effective choice that can help you feel connected to your community from a safe distance.
Get Help if You Spot Signs of Trouble
Unfortunately, heart attacks and strokes don’t take a break when a global pandemic strikes. Do not delay getting emergency medical care because you fear going to the emergency room due to COVID-19. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, even now, and the hospital is the safest place you can be if you think you are experiencing a heart attack or stroke. Call 911 immediately at the first sign of trouble—the American Heart Association offers this resource for identifying a heart attack or stroke. We also recommend reading our article, “Heart Health Warning Signs to Watch Out For.”
We Make Prescriptions Stress-Free
We are fully prepared to deliver your heart medications safely and on time throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our pharmacy locations are stocked, our couriers are standing by, and our pharmacists are on-call to answer questions and assist with coordinating refills or requesting longer fills. We offer free, contactless delivery with every single prescription so you can rest easy at home knowing that everything you need is on its way.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.