COVID-19 has changed how we live our lives, which can lead to significant impacts on our heart health. If you have gotten off course, take steps to steer yourself (and your heart) back in the right direction.
Life has changed a lot since February. Many of us are spending much more time in our homes and less time participating in the activities we had before, which have an effect on our health, both good and bad.
“We’ve seen a significant impact on people’s diets, lifestyles and exercise regimens over the past five months,” said Craig Hametz, M.D., FACC, FASE, FASNC, chief of the department of medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital and Medical Director of NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley and its echocardiography laboratory.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, two groups emerged—one, with gyms closed, took the opportunity to get into the best shape they’ve ever been while at home and the other, who focused less on their diets and exercised less,” he continued.
Steps Toward Better Heart Health
Fortunately, you are still in control of many of your heart health risk factors, and even small changes can have a big impact. Try these tips to build a healthier lifestyle:
1. Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days. “There’s definitely time in all of our busy lives where we can find time to do at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least three to five times a week,” Dr. Hametz said. “Exercise is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth.”
2. Schedule in exercise time as an appointment. “Your exercise time should go on the calendar like any other meeting that you have,” Dr. Hametz said. “You wouldn’t be late for a work meeting, so that exercise schedule becomes your dedicated time.”
3. Choose healthy foods the majority of the time. If you’re not sure where to begin, aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal. Of the remaining half, one-half should be filled with whole grains, while the other one-half should contain a lean protein. Include small amounts of healthy fat, like what’s found in fatty fish or olive oil.
4. Don’t smoke. Smoking and vaping increase your heart rate, narrow your arteries, increase your blood pressure and can cause an irregular heartbeat. “Smoking and vaping are not benign pastimes that will go without consequences,” Dr. Hametz said. “It’s not a matter of if you’ll develop heart disease with smoking, but when.”
5. Keep an eye on your heart. High blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are all risk factors for heart disease, so it’s important to know your numbers and keep them within normal levels. Regular checkups with a cardiologist can help you ensure that your heart is in a good place.
Craig Hametz, M.D., is board certified in cardiovascular disease, adult echocardiography and nuclear cardiology. He graduated from Cornell University and received his medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine before completing a fellowship at North Shore University Hospital.
At NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley Cardiology, patients can access a full spectrum of cardiovascular care—everything from preventive services to state-of-the-art diagnostic resources and advanced electrophysiology. This allows patients to get the cardiac care they need without traveling far from home.
To learn more, visit nyp.org/hudsonvalley-cardiology or call 914-736-0703.