Globally, claiming 17.9 million lives every year, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is reported as the leading cause of death by the World Health Organization (WHO). The severity of the situation worldwide had even led the United Nations to declare Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) as one of the major threats to sustainable development in the 21st century.However, the sudden onset of COVID-19 pandemic, have single-handedly spiked up the global disease burden in 2020. On top of the constantly rising number of incidences of CVD, now we havea global pandemic,threatening the balance of the entire healthcare system.The situation has turned even graver for patients with pre-existing CVD, as those with co-morbidities appear to have worse outcomes with COVID-19.
In these unprecedented times, people with CVD face a fatal dilemma.About 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 has CVD as underlying conditions. Not only are they more at risk of developing more severe outcome of the disease, but they may also be afraid to seek ongoing care for their hearts. To give you a better perspective, CVD is caused by the accumulation of plaque, in blood vessels. Plaques are primarily cholesterol deposits inside the coronary arteries that narrows the arteries down and reduces the blood flow into the heart, which causes CVDs. This accumulation causes hardening of arteries and this condition is called ‘Atherosclerosis’. It is this condition that triggers various heart diseases such as cerebrovascular diseases, high blood pressure, peripheral artery diseases, heart failure etc. Over and above that there are a number of other reasons such as physical inactivity, consumption of tobacco and alcohol, unhealthy diet etc that amplifies the risk factors.
Also read: Live with a healthy heart
However, it still might not be the end of the world. CVDs are preventable, and with a little bit of extra effort and care, the characteristic fatal nature of CVD in times of COVID-19 can also be efficiently dealt with. This is where, preventive healthcare comes into significance.
Significance of Preventive Healthcare
For as far as we remember, preventive healthcare has always been neglected as the primary care against any ailment. However, with a constantly rising burden of diseases, and rapid adoption of technological innovations in healthcare to reduce or eliminate hospital stays, preventive healthcare has finally been able receive its due recognition. For instance, as the COVID-19 led pandemic hit the world in the beginning of this year, our healthcare system was suddenly exposed of its vulnerabilities with no vaccine or cure to the virus. It was the timely intervention of preventive healthcare that came to the rescue to delay the upshot of cases in our country.
People are mostly used to reactive healthcare than proactive healthcare. And it is especially hard to sell preventive healthcare to people who feel they are completely healthy, and do not need to spend money or time worrying about their health. Most of us often miss the most vital point that preventive care actually helps in catching potential problems before they become real problems.
However of late, perspectives towards preventive healthcare are seen to be changing a great deal. Owing to that, there is an upward trend witnessed in the sector, leading to increasing adoption of healthy lifestyle choices, tele-health and self-monitoring via POCT devices and preventive care check-ups.Consumers have finally started believing on the adage, ‘prevention is better than cure’, and have now started treating health more seriously.After a certain age, in a regular interval one must keep on checking blood pressure and do the routine tests like blood sugar, lipid profile for early diagnosis and prompt treatment.
CVD in the Times of COVID
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a century worth of transformation upon the human kind in just a few months, which will surely stay with us for quite some time. Out of the long list of changes that we are introduced to in the last few months, an enthusiastic mindset towards the practice of preventive healthcare across the world, have by far, been the most promising one. What has led to this transition is the lack of cure for the virus, which renders preventive healthcare as best bet for stay safe.
Prevention is better than Cure
The best plan of action should be prevention, which means, doing your best to not get the infection in the first place. Needless to say, people with cardiovascular conditions need to be particularly careful in that matter. As primary steps in preventive healthcare, avoid frequent visits to crowded places, practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, and wear mask at all times. In addition, one has to stay watchful of their overall cardiovascular health. There is absolutely no reason to discontinue with the usual treatment recommended by your doctor for cardiovascular treatment.
In case you have a record of prior CVD, it is best to start practicing advanced preventive measures like self/remote monitoring, getting access to tele-medicines and e-visits with your doctor, prioritizing high-risk visits and procedures, and getting your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in place.
Furthermore, yearly flu shots are highly recommended for heart patients, as getting influenza while having underlying heart conditions increases the risk of flu complications. It is somehow more important in 2020, as a flu is the last thing you would like to welcome in a year when the healthcare system is already overburdened by COVID-19. However, that does not mean you need to ignore your health emergencies. No matter what, if you experience any symptoms of heart attack or stroke, do not wait for it to go away on its own. Take my advice, and get professional help!
(Disclaimer: The writer is Dr. Chaitali Ray, Senior Biochemist, SRL Diagnostics. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)