- Stress management plays a significant role in prevention of heart disease
- A healthy and well-balanced diet can combat cardiovascula disease
- Continuation of medication and treatment is important for heart patients
World Heart Day 2020: On the September 29 every year, World Heart Day is observed. The theme this year is cardiovascular diseases, and how they are the number one cause of death. World Heart Day 2020 falls amidst the global pandemic of COVID-19. This is the time when people with heart disease and those at risk of it should be extra cautions about their diet, lifestyle and all precautionary measures for coronavirus prevention. As part of Heart Day today, we speak to Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director of Medanta Hospital, on the precautions that heart patients need to take during a pandemic, what their caregivers should do and if people with heart disease suffer from a more severe COVID-19.
World Heart Day 2020: Everything that heart patients should know during the coronavirus pandemic
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death on the planet. This is the theme of World Heart Day 2020. According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. This constitutes nearly 1/3rd of all deaths globally. "While cardiovascular diseases or CVDs are increasing globally, in India, it has become an epidemic," Dr Trehan tells DoctorNDTV in an email interaction.
The incidence of CVDs has risen over the years due to factors such as smoking, diabetes, hypertension, abdominal obesity, psycho-social stress, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity. Therefore, early stage intervention in the form of prevention is the best solution to combat CVDs.
Here are more excerpts from the interview:
2. With the ongoing pandemic, what are the guidelines that you would like to give to heart patients?
Each one of us needs to be cautious amidst the current pandemic, but patients with heart disorders should be extra careful as they are more susceptible to the virus and have reported higher mortality rates when contracted with COVID-19 infection. Such patients are also likely to suffer more complications post recovery as compared to those without any heart disease. Hence, heart patients must mandatorily undertake all precautionary measures as advised by their doctor and should regularly monitor their heart health during this period through e consultations or hospital visits. Patients should also be aware of the fact that certain warning signs of a heart attack can mimic COVID-19 symptoms such as breathlessness, fatigue, headache, chest pain or pressure and one must seek emergency care at the hospital on experiencing any such symptoms.
3. Elaborate on the tips for caregivers of heart patients, focusing on COVID-19 pandemic.
The caregiver plays an integral role in treatment, recovery and wellbeing of the patient. It is their responsibility to ensure that the patient follows the prescribed medical treatment and this requires them to have a complete and detailed understanding of the condition. However, while taking care of the patient's health, it is equally important for caregivers to take care of themselves too. They should constantly monitor their overall health, especially amidst the current pandemic, where they may get infected with the virus. Therefore, it is critical for them to be watchful of the common symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, loss of smell / taste and, isolate from the patient and seek prompt medical intervention if they experience any of these. Hence, the most important tip for a caregiver is to ensure they protect themselves well and at the same time, ensure that treatment of the heart patient is not disrupted in any way.
A caregiver must strictly adhere to all the safety measures such as:
- Being alert for any signs suggestive of COVID-19 and reporting them to a medical expert immediately
- Washing and sanitising hands frequently
- Avoid touching surfaces unnecessarily
- Maintain social distancing at all times and wearing mask in public settings
Precautions to be undertaken for patients:
- Do not let the patient touch their eyes, nose, mouth when one is wearing a mask or in public spaces
- Avoid over crowding around the patient
- Monitor the patient's heart regularly and keep the doctor updated real time
- Ensure the patient maintains his diet and physical activity regime as recommended by the doctor
- Continuation of proper medication and treatment
4. Does coronavirus affect heart patients more severely? Are they more vulnerable to catching the virus?
Patients with cardiovascular diseases are at an enhanced risk of more severe complications arising from COVID-19. At a preliminary level, it may lead to a decrease in heart function. This could be a result of either the systemic inflammatory response to infection or direct viral infection in the heart. The two most common heart conditions the virus causes are heart failure and heart arrhythmia. Heart failure can occur due to excessive pressure in the lungs or from heart inflammation known as myocarditis. In older patients, heart failure can be fuelled by the presence of existing heart conditions while in a younger population, it is mostly a consequence of myocarditis caused by COVID-19.
5. What kind of lifestyle should heart patients follow, especially during a pandemic?
A few simple changes in lifestyle can also go a long way in preventing/ managing CVDs:
- Consumption of a balanced and healthy diet comprising non- processed foods such fresh vegetables and fruits, grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy options are recommended.
- Limited consumption of foods high on salt, fat and sugar.
- Regular exercise.
- Smoking cessation.
- Limited alcohol consumption.
- Blood pressure and cholesterol regulation through stress management. Practicing yoga regularly can help in keeping stress levels under check.
6. How can one reduce risk of and prevent heart disease?
Prevention of heart disease is simple and can be ensured by leading a well-balanced and healthy life.
- Our body requires at least 45 minutes of physical activity daily. Therefore, introducing habits like walking, running or cycling is recommended for staying fit. The ongoing pandemic has confined most people to their homes, and this has led to an increase in sedentary lifestyles with people spending most of their time in front of screens- mobile, TV or laptop. Taking short breaks in between to go for a stroll around the house can give your eyes some rest along with the body. Additionally, one should engage in some form of home workout.
- A healthy and well-balanced diet plays a crucial role in combating CVDs as common heart diseases are caused due to high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. Therefore, consumption of a healthy and well-balanced diet, rich in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish and fish oils, healthy nuts like almonds, legumes like lentils and fruits among others can go a long way in preventing CVDs
- Lack of adequate and good quality sleep can increase the risk of CVDs. One should ensure that they get at least 7-8 hours of sleep daily
- Stress management plays a significant role in the prevention of heart diseases. Therefore, mental well-being is as important as physical wellness. Stress impacts the blood pressure level and heart rate, and the triggers causing it must be identified and managed through techniques like meditation and yoga.
- Apart from following the above precautionary measures, undergoing regular screening for overall health is mandatory, especially with increasing age. While the life expectancy has increased over time, the focus should be on health and wellness to live a disease-free life.
(Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director of Medanta Hospital)
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.