Harnessing telehealth to beat cardiovascular disease

Published September 28, 2021, 9:30 AM

by Cheshire Que

How’s your heart?

There are 520 million people with cardiovascular disease and they have been more at risk of developing severe forms of COVID-19, according to the World Heart Federation. Resulting in 18.6 million deaths per year, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains to be the forefront cause of mortality globally.

Aside from the increased risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms among patients with cardiovascular disease, many have been unable to attend routine check-ups and emergency appointments to manage their CVD conditions due to fear of exposure to the virus. Furthermore, people have been isolated from family and friends due to restrictions. These limitations just made the plight of CVD patients worse during the pandemic.

With the unprecedented attack of COVID-19, healthcare systems worldwide struggled to battle the disease. Unfortunately, non-COVID patients suffering from non-communicable diseases like heart disease are also struggling for proper assessment and management.

Especially during the early stages of the pandemic, there was a shortage of health professionals for many reasons: exposure to the virus and mandatory quarantine period, infection, and sadly death among our overworked front liners.

With addressing COVID-19 patients being a priority, management of patients with cardiovascular diseases along with other non-communicable diseases had to take the backseat. This dilemma left CVD patients more vulnerable.

For this year’s World Heart Day, the World Heart Federation highlights the urgent need to find different and innovative ways to connect people to heart health by utilizing the power of digital health in improving awareness, prevention, and management of cardiovascular diseases worldwide. The World Health Federation emphasizes the huge role of telehealth and digital resources to connect every heart everywhere through their campaign Use Heart to Connect.

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Use Heart to Connect centers on using our knowledge, compassion, and influence to empower our loved ones and the communities we live in to have the best opportunity to live heart-healthy lives. It’s all about staying digitally connected.

The three key pillars of this campaign are equity, prevention, and community. Equity simply means the quality of being fair and impartial. Unfortunately, there are still a number of people who do not have access to internet connectivity. Thus, limiting their access to information. According to the World Heart Federation, disconnected hearts due to lack of access to CVD prevention, treatment, and control increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Aside from the increased risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms among patients with cardiovascular disease, many have been unable to attend routine check-ups and emergency appointments to manage their CVD conditions due to fear of exposure to the virus.

Telehealth is not something new. It has existed for several years now. Due to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, however, the use of telehealth or digital health rapidly grew to adapt to the new normal.

If you have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or any other medical conditions yet have been unable to consult with your doctor since the pandemic began, it is now time to consider having a follow up by scheduling a teleconsultation. Do not wait for symptoms to arise. It is better to be properly assessed and monitored albeit digitally. We have to make the most out of our resources.

Prevention is key. Live a heart-healthy lifestyle through proper diet, avoiding tobacco, and staying physically active with plenty of exercise. Make use of digital resources to help you get started, keep you motivated, and stay on track. There are a lot of video exercises, information about nutrition, and apps that you can utilize, especially during times of lockdown when gyms and fitness centers are inaccessible.

Registered nutritionist-dietitians and fitness coaches are available online to guide you on proper diet and exercise. It is always best to consult a health professional before starting any program to prevent complications.

Lastly, belonging to a community and having a strong support system will go a long way in terms of managing cardiovascular diseases. Isolation and lack of contact with family and friends have truly taken its toll on everyone. After all, no man is an island. Stress and anxiety are real. They negatively impact the cardiovascular system.

Let us take time to connect with our loved ones digitally. Be creative in how you can interact virtually. You can join online exercise sessions, have virtual parties, or simply engage in meaningful conversations over chat or video call.

World Heart Day is a reminder to all of us to take good care of our heart, to remain digitally connected during times we are supposed to be physically apart even from the ones we hold dear. Most important, remember to continue seeking professional guidance through telehealth to ensure a heart-healthy lifestyle this pandemic.

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