In a world still grappling with the risks that surround COVID-19, safety has never been more top-of-mind. Ironically, this focus on safety — and associated impacts to healthcare accessibility, fitness regimens, meal planning and other “health resources” — has reduced our collective focus on general health. 

In parallel, economic conditions, social issues and pandemic fears have had an unprecedented impact on mental health. These stressors and related anxieties further threaten general wellness.

Unfortunately, these factors converge in ways that put people with chronic conditions at further risk, just as COVID-19 appears to subject the same patients to potentially life-threatening complications.

With these circumstances in mind, a healthy lifestyle has never been more important. With a renewed focus on wellness — and a little creativity — you can alleviate stress, improve your health, and reduce your risk profile, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Eat right

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eating right is a critical component of being “healthy at home.” Although diet cannot prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, healthy eating can help strengthen your immune system. At the same time, it has broader health benefits, helping to reduce obesity and the potential for heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

Specifically, WHO recommends the following:

  • Eat a variety of foods, with a focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables
  • Limit salt intake to 5 grams per day
  • Moderate fat and oil intake
  • Limit sugar intake
  • Stay hydrated
  • Moderate alcohol consumption

Stay active

While some of us continue to “shelter in place,” and many of us work from home, even previously active people are likely more sedentary than ever before. Unfortunately, inactivity is a dangerous proposition; according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), physical activity (PA) can be a powerful force for good health. From improved immune response to a reduction in the symptoms surrounding depression and anxiety, the positive impact of regular PA is well documented. PA can also help reduce the severity of COVID-19 cases, helping avoid more serious complications. This is especially true for patients with chronic conditions; even moderate activity can make a significant difference.

While even a short walk daily or everyday chores (like cleaning your home) will have a positive effect, here are some more creative suggestions from Time Magazine:

  • Use home objects in place of fitness gear (e.g., a sturdy chair for step-ups)
  • Incorporate low-impact, no-equipment exercises like squats, sit-ups, and planks
  • Create a “circuit,” including five exercises (1 minute per)
  • Repeat this circuit three to five times each day

In addition, if you can get outdoors, a wealth of opportunities — from walking to hiking, biking and more — are available. Just remember to practice social distancing to keep yourself (and others) safe.

Coping strategies

For many of us, the convergence of COVID-19, related economic conditions, employment interruptions, isolation and other factors have increased stress and anxiety like never before. 

First and foremost, if you or a loved one find yourselves in crisis, seek immediate help — from 911 to local and national helplines, there are a growing number of resources available.

Beyond these resources, the CDC recommends a number of tips to cope with these stressors:

  • Know who to call if you get sick — research local resources in advance
  • Engage professional help (counseling or therapy) if you feel overwhelmed
  • Moderate your consumption of “pandemic news” (to reduce anxiety)
  • Make time to unwind (and stay active)
  • Connect with others (to avoid isolation)

It is also important to maintain your treatment plans and monitor your symptoms if you have a pre-existing mental health condition. Consult with your healthcare provider if any changes develop.

Stay committed

For people with chronic conditions, it is especially important to follow your healthcare provider’s advice despite pandemic conditions. This includes any recommended exercise, diet, and care routines, and keeping up with scheduled appointments; COVID-19 has driven dramatic improvements in telehealth, giving many patients alternatives to in-person visitation (when desired). 

Similarly, be sure to stay on top of your prescribed medications. Pharmacies like ours are “essential businesses,” and just a phone call away if you have any questions or related needs.

Be safe and healthy

While COVID-19 continues to impact our world in varied ways, safety must remain top-of-mind — but shouldn’t distract us from healthy habits. Put simply, good health is always a good idea. 

Where to get more information

The World Health Organization (WHO) offers comprehensive “Healthy at Home” resources:

https://www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a variety of “coping” resources: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html 

We’re here to help

Your local Health Mart pharmacist is always here for you, and we are happy to answer your questions. 

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

Sources: 

World Health Organization: 

https://www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome/healthyathome—healthy-diet 

Last accessed: June 26, 2020

American College of Sports Medicine:

https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/stories/?b=896 

Last accessed: June 26, 2020

Time Magazine: 

https://time.com/5804130/covid-19-social-distancing-wellness/ 

Last accessed: June 26, 2020

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html 

Last accessed: June 26, 2020

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