The pandemic has certainly taken us on an emotional rollercoaster but a new study shows it's really hurting our hearts.
Ahead of February, American Heart Month, the Cleveland Clinic did a survey and found heart attacks and other related issues are on the rise, finding nearly half of Americans have had at least one heart-related issue since March 2020. The survey found that two out of five (41%) Americans (over 18) have experienced at least one heart-related issue since March 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak began.
Participants report tightness in their chest, shortness of breath, and higher blood pressure. Add that to weight gain — the study found most people have picked up 11 pounds during the pandemic from more sitting and less walking — and now you have the perfect storm for a heart attack or stroke.
The Cleveland Clinic reports 77% of Americans are more likely to sit throughout the day now compared to before the pandemic. Twenty-two percent reported that increased responsibilities at home mean they have less time to exercise regularly.
One of the most concerning findings is that women have felt more stressed than men during the pandemic. Women report that concern over family/loved ones getting sick contributes to their stress the most (60% versus 52% of men). Women are also historically the caretakers and have been the primary parent balancing work and changes for kids with remote learning.
It's especially worrisome considering heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Dr. Leslie Cho, the Director of the Women's Cardiology Center at the Cleveland Clinic, says stress is the key ingredient for a heart attack.
"Stress left unchecked can cause something as awful as Broken Heart Syndrome, cardio myopathy. So, it's really important to remember that taking care of others means taking care of yourself first," said Dr. Cho.
Of those who have lost a family member to heart disease, nearly half (40%) have never been screened for risk factors. One-third (34%) of Americans feel that if they have a family history of heart disease, there is nothing they can do to limit the risk of developing that heart condition.
Dr. Cho says that's not true.
She advises getting screened for cholesterol levels and blood pressure, increasing physical activity, and following plant-based and Mediterranean diets.