Advice from the American Heart Association

What heart patients should know about COVID-19


COVID-19-HThe virus’s main target is the lungs. But that could affect the heart, especially a diseased heart, which has to work harder to get oxygenated blood throughout the body, said Vardeny, an adviser on the ACC bulletin. “In general, you can think of it as something that is taxing the system as a whole.”

That could exacerbate problems for someone with heart failure, where the heart is already having problems pumping efficiently.

Someone with an underlying heart issue also might have a less robust immune system. People’s immune systems weaken as they age, Vardeny said. And “in those with chronic medical conditions, the body’s immune response is not as strong a response when exposed to viruses.”

If such a person catches a virus, she said, it’s likely to stick around and cause complications.

A virus also may pose a special risk for people who have the fatty buildup known as plaque in their arteries, Vardeny said. Evidence indicates similar viral illnesses can destabilize these plaques, potentially resulting in the blockage of an artery feeding blood to the heart, putting patients at risk of heart attack.

The ACC bulletin recommends people with cardiovascular disease stay up to date with vaccinations, including for pneumonia. The ACC also supports getting a flu shot to prevent another source of fever, which could potentially be confused with the coronavirus infection.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned in a February news conference – before confirmed cases spread nationwide – that residents needed to prepare. Her agency is part of the CDC. Messonnier summed up her advice as, “Stay home if you’re sick; cover your cough; wash your hands.”

Resources to maintain healthy lifestyle
amidst COVID-19 outbreak

“Prevention is key in limiting the spread of coronavirus, and with more people working remotely or limiting their exposure to crowds, it’s important to maintain healthy habits at home, “said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for prevention. “Wash your hands often and stay home when you feel sick, but don’t disregard your physical activity and healthy eating habits. These are the foundation to maintaining and improving your health.”

Here are some ideas to use at home for whole-body health:

  1. Create an at home circuit workout. Select three or four exercises you can do at home like jumping jacks, lunges or jogging in place. Do each exercise in short bursts and repeat the circuit two to three times.
  2. Use shelf stable ingredients to cook heart-healthy meals. Canned, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables, frozen meat and dried grains are great shelf-stable options to have on hand for recipes. Try this Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili or Slow Cooker Barbeque Chicken to start.  
  3. Fight stress. An unexpected change in circumstance is stressful. Use the additional time at home as an opportunity to take action against stress. Take a few minutes each day to meditate, improve your sleep hygiene for more restful sleep and call friends and family to stay socially connected.

Learning and Working From Home

Work From HomeSince changes in routine can be stressful, it will be helpful to talk with your kids about why they are staying home and what your daily structure will be during this time. Let them help create a daily schedule that can hang on the refrigerator or somewhere they can see it each day. Be sure to include breaks from tele-work or schoolwork to relax and connect with each other.

Here are some ideas to help you create a daily schedule:

  • Wake up, get dressed and have breakfast at the normal time.

  • Decide where everyone can do their work most effectively and without distractions.

  • List the times for learning, exercise and breaks.

    • For younger children, 20 minutes of class assignments followed by 10 minutes of physical activity might work well.

    • Older children and teens may be able to focus on assignments for longer stretches, taking breaks between subjects.

    • Include your hours as well, so your children know when the work day is done.

  • Schedule time for nutritious lunches and snacks. Many schools are providing take-home school meal packages for students who need them.

  • Don’t forget afternoon breaks as well!

  • Have dinner together as a family and discuss the day.

  • Enjoy more family time in the evenings, playing, reading, watching a movie or exercising together.

  • Stick with normal bedtime routines as much as possible during the week to make sure everyone gets enough sleep.

Try not to have the news on all day. It is best not to have the news on while kids are in the room as it can increase their fear and anxiety (and yours!). If they do listen to the news, talk together about what they are hearing and correct any misinformation or rumors you may hear.

6 science-backed activities to help you
relax while you’re home

– CNBC Cory Stieg

Color or doodle

RelaxStudies have shown that “structured coloring of a reasonably complex geometric pattern,” such as a symmetrical mandala pattern or coloring book, can lead to a meditative state that helps reduce anxiety. Consider breaking out your adult coloring books, or drawing your own pattern.

Go for a walk

Walking not only counts as physical activity, but also provides some mental health benefits. If you can get outside to walk, studies have shown that a brisk walk can make you feel more creative. A 2016 study found that walking can make you happier and reduce feelings of boredom and dread, even if you’re just walking indoors. (Walking outside and staying at least six feet from other people is safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, FYI.)


Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep, because when you’re sleep-deprived your body has a harder time fighting infectious diseases, according to the Mayo Clinic. Studies have shown that people are more likely to get infected with other types of viruses (like influenza and rhinovirus) if they’re sleep-deprived.

If you’re going to take a nap, stick to 10 to 20 minutes to avoid feeling groggy or messing with your sleep-wake cycle, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Just keep in mind that sleeping too little or too much can be a symptom of depression.

Do yoga

Feeling stiff from sitting at your WFH station? Consider doing some yoga. Not only does it count as physical activity, but studies have shown that yoga can boost your mood, lower stress and anxiety and boost your self-esteem.

There are several online yoga classes to explore from the comfort of your own home, such as YouTube’s Yoga With Adriene or CorePower Yoga On Demand.

Chat with a friend

Call, text, email or video chat with your friends and family. Just because you’re socially distancing doesn’t mean that you can’t connect. Research has shown that social support can make you more resilient to stress.

Listen to (or play) music

You’ve seen the viral videos of people singing while quarantined, and it turns out they may be onto something: Singing has been shown to improve people’s mental health and sense of belonging.

Not much of a musician? Listening to music can help people in the face of a scary and stressful experience; a study on cancer patients found that music reduced anxiety and pain, while bolstering people’s moods.