CLEVELAND, OHIO — February is American Heart Month – a time when we’re reminded to care for our hearts.
But, according to a recent survey many Americans are putting their heart health on the back burner due to fear of contracting COVID-19.
“People are not seeking medical advice and they are staying at home despite the fact they have significant symptoms, either heart-related symptoms or not heart-related symptoms,” said Samir Kapadia, MD, Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic.
Results show one-in-three people with heart disease have stopped taking heart-related medications; and 65% have put off check-ups or screenings due to fears of contracting COVID-19.
“This is not a good idea because blood pressure, cholesterol can go up,” said Dr. Kapadia. “And if you ever contract COVID, these kinds of situations can make the outcomes even worse, so filling medications, taking medications regularly, having proper levels to check if the medications are working or not. All these are very crucial steps.”
Survey participants said they’ve gained weight during the pandemic, as well – with one quarter gaining more than 20 pounds.
“It causes insulin resistance. It causes cholesterol to go up. It causes joint-related problems. So, the weight gain, in all terms, cardiovascular health, or general health, is not a good outcome,” said Dr. Kapadia.
But results aren’t all bad. About 30% said they’re exercising more and eating a healthier diet.
“We all will have a little bit more time, a little bit more opportunity to control our lives because we are at home,” Dr. Kapadia said. “We are able to control our daily activities a little bit better, so if you look at it positively, you can invest in your health a bit more and be even healthier than in the past.”
According to the survey, about 85% percent of Americans said they fear contracting COVID-19 at the doctor’s office or hospital, but Dr. Kapadia said healthcare facilities are taking every precaution to keep patients safe.
He adds that care for chronic, or emergency, issues should never be ignored.