CLEVELAND — While people try to find normalcy, the effects of the pandemic are still lingering and affecting the heart.
“Anecdotally, patients were experiencing certain cardiovascular symptoms that could be related to this ongoing pandemic,” said Luke Laffin, the preventive cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
According to a Cleveland Clinic survey, 40% of Americans have experienced one of the following heart issues since the beginning of the pandemic: shortness of breath, dizziness, increased blood pressure and chest pain. There are many reasons why this is happening, but they started with daily changes made in the past two years.
"Things like not being as active, so maybe not going to the gym or sitting more at home, not doing that walk to work,” said Laffin.
The survey says 77% of Americans say they now sit throughout the day and 65% stress more. This brings us to the next two factors, mental health and diet.
“Chronically, we know stress causes us to make the wrong dietary choices, you know, grab that chocolate rather than a banana, for example,” said Laffin.
Then some postponed their doctor's visits in fear of catching COVID-19. Finally, are those who caught COVID-19 and are still dealing with symptoms, which is something the Cleveland Clinic says one and four Americans face.
“About a month ago, I had this thing where my heart just started racing and pounding. I ended up going to the hospital one day because I was so dizzy, I thought I was having a heart attack,” said Cheyenne Wilkes.
Cheyenne Wilkes had the virus back in September, but just a month ago she went to the doctor for heart issues, and they told the 27-year-old she was suffering from hypertension.
“It’s terrifying. I was healthy before this and now I have to worry about my heart giving out, having a heart attack or something crazy,” said Wilkes.
She's not alone. Yvanka Hall didn't have any heart conditions before getting the virus.
“The breathing — having a difficult time breathing, which was like one of the first things that I knew that I had COVID last year,” said Hall.
She had COVID-19 exactly a year ago today and she is still dealing with symptoms. Along with her shortness of breath, she deals with chills and brain fog.
“Part of it is fearful. If I’m still having these issues, what are the other things that are going on with COVID? What has COVID damaged internally?” said Hall.
Laffin tells News 5 while there is a current focus on COVID, it’s important to not lose sight of other risks as well.
“You know, COVID is not gone and we all want it to go away. We all know that we don't want to catch it, but we can't ignore chronic risk factors for cardiovascular disease. That's still more likely to kill you than COVID," said Laffin.
Simple things you can do to stay heart-healthy include a good diet, exercise, and regular checkups.
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