The pandemic pushed the nation’s health care system to the brink. Hospitals even turned patients away during surges. It’s a terrible scenario. And it should be a wake-up call.
Ensuring capacity to care for critically ill patients – whether they are experiencing complications from COVID-19, a stroke or any other emergency – will require more Americans to be more proactive about managing their health and preventing chronic conditions.
Adopting Healthy Behaviors
For most people, making a few changes can both lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and minimize severe complication from COVID-19 infection.
- Eat healthy. A balanced diet can strengthen one’s immune response to a winter cold or flu, or coronavirus. Eating nutritious food in sensible portions can also help with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, which is more important now than ever, as obesity increases the odds of hospitalization from COVID-19. Being overweight is also a leading risk factor for heart disease.
- Get physically active. Regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of chronic conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Walking just 30 minutes a day several days a week is enough to make a difference.
- Resume medical appointments. Primary care visits declined significantly during the pandemic, meaning many patients missed opportunities for preventive tests, including blood pressure screenings and cholesterol evaluations. Patients should reschedule missed appointments and know that telehealth may be an option for those who remain hesitant about in-person visits.
- Take medications as prescribed. Skipping doses can exacerbate conditions that medications were prescribed to control. In some situations, missing or shorting doses can have dire consequences – a heart attack, for example.
Being a Good Steward
Prevention is not only key to staying well, but it will also help ensure timely access to care for those who need urgent attention from a strained health care system. Supply chain issues have kept some medical products in short supply. And the prolonged pandemic response continues to test an already weary – and shrinking – health care workforce.
The Delta variant is still causing havoc, cases from Omicron are surging and winter flu season is right around the corner. Either virus could ignite yet another wave of serious illness, but making small changes can help protect patients both this season and for years to come.