During American Heart Month this February, we are reminded about the importance of taking care of our heart health. This reminder is perhaps even more important this year as we approach a year of living during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of the pandemic, many have stayed inside to avoid spread of the virus, which can be particularly dangerous for patients with heart conditions.
Mardi Gomberg-Maitland, MD, MSc, a cardiologist at the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates, shares her concerns about the pandemic’s impact on heart health and how patients can work to improve their health. Gomberg-Maitland was recently elected to the board of directors of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation
Q: This month reminds us about the importance of caring for our hearts. During the pandemic, many have been staying inside their homes, perhaps not maintaining the active lifestyle or healthy diet they had before. What kind of impact can that have on the heart?
Gomberg-Maitland: Inactivity is not good for your overall health. Deconditioning results in higher heart rates with little activity which can trigger existing heart rhythm problems and put extra strain on the heart. Poor eating can lead to excess weight, again adding stress on the heart and the overall cardiovascular system.
Q: What are the biggest concerns you have as a cardiologist regarding heart health and COVID-19?
Gomberg-Maitland: Patients with heart problems should be especially careful about COVID-19. As any infection can potentially worsen their underlying problems and puts them at risk for a difficult clinical course.
Q: What steps can people take to improve heart health during the pandemic?
Gomberg-Maitland: People need to be conscious of their food intake, keep moving even if it’s just within the home, start basic exercise videos on YouTube, and make sure to keep in contact with friends and family for emotional support. Finally, get vaccinated!