Like many people, your normal routine may have drastically changed over the past few months due to the COVID ‑19 pandemic. You may find yourself at home with limited access to gyms, restaurants, parks and more. Instead of sinking into unhealthy habits like excessive eating and inactivity, you can create new routines that promote your heart health from the comfort of home. Cardiologist, Dr. Devin Patel, shares some ways you can stay heart-health conscious during the COVID ‑19 pandemic.
While you’re home and cutting back on restaurant dining, now is the perfect time to take up a new hobby – cooking. Cooking doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be a time when you relax, unwind and whip up the perfect heart-healthy meal for you and your family.
Some of the best ingredients to promote your heart health include:
- Types — blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
- Benefits – rich in antioxidants which help protect against inflammation and heart disease
- Types — almonds, avocado, nut butter, olive oil and walnuts
- Benefits – rich in monounsaturated fats which are linked to reducing cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease
Leafy green vegetables
- Types — Brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale and spinach
- Benefits – great source of vitamin K which helps protect your arteries and reduces your risk of blood clots
- Types – chicken, beans, lentils, salmon, tuna, turkey and egg whites
- Benefits – contains nutrients such as omegas‑3’s, potassium and vitamin B‑12 which help lower your risk of heart disease
- Types – chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds
- Benefits – high in fiber and omega- 3 fatty acids which can help reduce blood pressure, inflammation and cholesterol levels
Try incorporating some of these foods into your daily meals and recipes for a healthier heart. To mix things up, you can cook a new heart-healthy meal for you and your family each week.
Good quality sleep is key for promoting a healthy, strong heart. Lack of sleep can increase insulin resistance and C‑reactive protein which can cause stress, inflammation and raises your risk of diabetes and heart disease. A good night’s rest decreases the work of your heart as your blood pressure and heart rate go down for a prolonged period.
For quality sleep, it is recommended that you aim for eight hours a night.
There’s no questioning the benefits that exercise has on your heart. When you elevate your heart rate from exercise it strengthens your heart and lungs, resulting in lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
If you don’t have access to a gym due to the pandemic, there are still a variety of ways you can exercise at home. Try to incorporate 30 minutes of activity in your daily routine such as at-home workout videos, stretching, walking around the block or yoga.
Due to COVID ‑19, your social gatherings might be limited. While you may not be able to grab a coffee or host a dinner party with your family and/or friends, you can still check in on each other through texting, calling or video chat. Staying connected with loved ones can help manage your stress levels which regulate your stress hormones and heart rate.
You don’t have to visit a doctor’s office to have your heart rate checked. There are several ways you can monitor your heart health at home.
Blood pressure monitor
You can purchase a manual or automatic blood pressure monitor to keep track of your levels. On average, a normal reading is less than 120⁄80 mm Hg. However, everyone is different, and some people may experience higher or lower levels than others. Your primary care physician or cardiologist can help determine what is healthy for you.
Heart fitness apps
Whether you use a Fitbit, smartphone or watch, there are a variety of apps that offer heart monitoring functionalities. The most common form of heart monitoring on a fitness app is your heart rate. The normal pulse reading for adults is anywhere between 60 to 100 bpm (beats per minute).
Like your blood pressure level, everyone is different, and you may need to consult with your primary care physician or cardiologist if you are concerned about your heart rate.