Before you surrender your heart to Cupid’s arrow this Valentine’s Day, make sure it’s in tip-top shape. February is American Heart Month and as the pandemic continues, with some 42% of the workforce working remotely, it’s important to understand how an altered lifestyle affects the cardiovascular system.
Dr. James Trapasso, Primary Care Physician of Hudson Valley’s NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group, offers advice on being heart healthy. “Sitting is the new smoking,” he warns. “A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain, higher blood pressure, diabetes, loss of muscle tone, and overall deconditioning.”
Trapasso has recommendations for those whose daily physical activity may have decreased. You don’t necessarily need gyms or fancy equipment to combat inactivity. Moving just 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week can be very effective. The doctor also recommends:
- Carve out the time. Don’t anticipate that a routine will just fall into your lap. You need to build it into your schedule.
- Aim for a 7-minute body-weight workout, twice a day. You can find simple workouts online or in fitness apps.
- Make your target heart rate zone of 120 to 130 during activity. Keeping in this range for 7 to 10 minutes maximizes calorie-burning effects.
“Weight gain is a marker of inactivity with profound cardiac implications” states Trapasso. But he warns against fad diets to lose “pandemic weight”, as rapid weight-loss is difficult to maintain. Instead, aim for small changes and set realistic targets. “A goal of roughly 1lb weight loss per week is an achievable target that will allow you to adjust your lifestyle to sustain progress.”
Trapasso also recommends being diligent about annual health screenings, especially for those with increased risk factors like diabetes or a family history of cardiac issues. He has seen a decline in preventive health screenings since the pandemic hit, but people should not fear contracting Covid-19 from doctor visits. He says almost all the staff in his group has had at least one vaccination, if not two. He also stresses the importance of staying up-to-date with flu shots and receiving the Covid-19 vaccine when available, “to avoid putting added stress on your system and heart”.
The doctor warns that cardiac distress can manifest in both typical and atypical ways, with women tending to show more atypical symptoms.
Cardiac Distress Symptoms can include:
- Chest pain
- Arm pain
- Shortness of breath
- Neck pain
If you’re feeling any of the above symptoms after physical exertion, Trapasso urges you call 911.