Keep Your Heart Health on Track During COVID-19

Woman Baking

It’s never been easier to let heart-healthy habits slip.

Stress levels are high; it’s easy to lose an hour of sleep to worry and anxiety. Your favorite websites and social media accounts are sharing comfort food recipes. At many grocery stores, unhealthy snacks and drinks remain well-stocked.

What’s more, gyms and even some parks are closed to the public, and TV and streaming services are overflowing with things to watch. With most people staying at home, it’s not hard to spend an entire day on the couch.

Small indulgences here and there are understandable and even encouraged. After all, mental and emotional health is always important.

But heart health is important, too. Allowing healthy habits to disappear entirely can put your health at risk. Plus, it could make it that much harder to resume good habits when life resumes more normal rhythms.

To help your heart “keep calm and carry on,” try these simple suggestions.

Follow Guidelines

This applies to two areas of health: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and your cardiologist’s guidance.

Recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic may change over time. To reduce your health risks, stay abreast of these updates and follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. Find the most up-to-date information on their website.

Continue to abide by your cardiologist’s advice, too. Whether you take medication regularly or you’re working on incorporating heart-healthy foods into your diet, keep up with your heart health. If anything changes or you have questions, get in touch with your doctor.

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude isn’t just about changing your outlook on life: it’s also good for your heart. Take a moment each day to reflect on or write about things you’re grateful for—even during this stressful time.

Research shows that people who practice gratitude regularly are more likely to sleep better, get enough exercise, and have fewer aches and pains.

Try Yoga or Meditation

If you’ve never had the time to try yoga or meditation, now is the perfect time to start. Yoga has been shown to improve sleep, reduce stress, strengthen muscles, and can even reduce the risk of heart disease. And mindfulness/meditation practices have been shown to lower heart rate and even blood pressure.

There are plenty of free YouTube videos and smartphone apps that can help you get started with either of these practices.

Experiment with New Exercises

Have you ever wanted to try Pilates? Strength training? High-intensity interval training (HIIT)? Dancing? Now is your chance!

Adding variety to an exercise routine has been shown to:

  • Avoid or delay reaching a plateau in results 
  • Make it more likely you’ll continue to exercise
  • Improve a greater range of abilities, from strength to balance to flexibility

A heart-healthy regimen incorporates both aerobic and strength training. If you don’t know what to try, look at your current habits. Lacking in strength training? Try some bodyweight exercises. Are you missing aerobic exercise? Consider HIIT or Zumba videos you can do at home.

Cook and Bake Heart-Healthy Treats

If you’ve been tempted by websites and social media accounts sharing recipes to make during social isolation, you’re not alone! In fact, some grocery stores have had trouble keeping flour, yeast, and baking powder on their shelves.

Although cooking and baking is a great way to control how much sugar, sodium, and trans fats you’re eating, indulging in desserts and comfort foods every day can hurt your heart health and your waistline. 

If you’re going to bake treats at home, make them heart-healthy. Aim for whole grain bread recipes and low-sugar desserts. Steer clear of recipes that are loaded with butter, cheese, salt, and tons of processed ingredients.

Here are a few make-at-home comfort foods your heart will love:

About this Blog

The Penn Heart and Vascular blog provides the latest information on heart disease prevention, nutrition and breakthroughs in cardiovascular care.

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