Sports & Health

Getting to the heart of the health issues in COVID

Many people are thinking about their health these days.

While COVID is front and centre in most people’s thinking, the pandemic may have served to undermine people’s health in more ways than may be obvious says the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF).

Based on a recent survey of almost 400 health professionals and researchers the HSF conducted in 2021, respondents largely agreed that those living with heart disease or stroke, or are at higher risk of developing them, have faced significant pandemic-related delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Part of that is because of reduced non-COVID beds and procedures as the health system shifts to treat people ill from COVID.

Also, people who are affected by heart and stroke issues are hesitant to seek treatment or enter a hospital.

“People were trying to cope with their illness as much as possible until they reached a breaking point, because of the fear of coming to hospital,” says Dr. Oudit, a HSF funded researcher quoted in a report on the survey.

Add to this fear, evidence that suggests that ACE2, a protein found on the surface of blood cells and is a biomarker for cardiovascular illness, also serves as a receptor for Coronavirus to enter the body’s critical areas. This strongly suggests that people with higher levels of this protein will likely have worse outcomes with COVID.

Another challenge is that lockdowns and closures tend to inhibit exercise and give ample excuse to eat poorly and more than they need, contributing to cardiovascular risks like obesity, high blood pressure and early diabetes.

A further complication the survey brought to light is that 78% of respondents reported that critical heart and brain research was stalled or slowed and pandemic-related challenges shut down recruitment for trials and also shifted researchers to the front line to deal with COVID emergencies.

All in all, not very encouraging news.

But there is a silver lining. Most of those surveyed (72%) also suggested that the upside is that the pandemic has highlighted the need to promote positive, healthy living and disease prevention measures and not take our health for granted. Perhaps, in the long run, the pandemic may serve to make us more conscious of our health choices and do the right thing more often.

Yes, it’s harder to get motivated to exercise in the cold, short winter months, but the payback outweighs the shivering cost. And as your mother might have said, “you just have to dress for it”.

“We need to get revved up again and be connected and start exercising “concludes Dr. Oudit. “Hopefully if this happens again, we can be much more prepared”.

You can find more information on heart health and how to live healthier in a pandemic and after at


Photo: “People were trying to cope with their illness as much as possible until they reached a breaking point, because of the fear of coming to hospital,” says Dr. Oudit.

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