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Cardiovascular disease: tips for self-management during the COVID-19 pandemic

This content is commissioned and funded by Bayer PLC.

Managing your health is always important, especially when it comes to your heart. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing many aspects of everyday life, what options are available for self-managing a cardiovascular disease (CVD) and when is it time to speak to a GP?

What is cardiovascular disease?

CVD is a general term for health conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels (arteries and veins). There are several different types of CVD, including:1

  • Coronary heart disease / coronary artery disease (CAD) (when the blood supply to the heart is blocked/interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries)2
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD) (when a build-up of fatty substances restricts the blood supply in the arteries going to the legs)3
  • Stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) (where the blood supply to a section of the brain is restricted)1
  • Aortic disease (a group of conditions affecting the aorta, the blood vessel which carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body)1

Your risk of getting CVD is determined by various factors – including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and age.1 For more information please refer to Cardiovascular disease: know your risks and symptoms

Self-managing CVD

If you have CVD, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and with the support of your doctor, ensure you manage your condition well. Managing CVD effectively can help to reduce the risk of a potential cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke.2,4 There are several steps you can take to help manage your CVD at home:1

  • Stop smoking
  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Cut down on alcohol
  • Take any prescribed medication as instructed by your doctor

Before making any changes to your lifestyle or medical treatments, please consult your doctor or healthcare provider.

If you have been diagnosed with CAD or PAD for example, taking steps such as stopping smoking and exercising regularly can help to manage your symptoms and prevent further build-up of fatty substances inside the arteries.2,5,6 If you have CAD, a weekly exercise programme based on walking can help to improve the blood supply to your heart and increase your fitness.7 If you have PAD, light to moderate exercise such as swimming or walking for 30 minutes three times per week can also help improve your circulation, reduce swelling and relieve cramp.8,9,10 If you struggle to walk, you could try initially moving your feet around in circles, then up and down while sitting down.9  Remember to consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your lifestyle or medical treatments.

It may also help to use home monitoring equipment, such as bathroom scales, blood pressure or heart monitoring devices. Before purchasing home monitoring equipment, consult your GP and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

When to speak to your doctor

If you are concerned that your CVD is getting worse, don’t delay – speak to your doctor, and they can advise you on how to better manage your condition.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there are ways that you can safely speak to your healthcare team.11 Remember to follow the latest social distancing rules when using healthcare services.12 If you do attend an appointment it may help to:

  • Write down any symptoms you have been experiencing. You can then refer to these notes during your appointment
  • If you have purchased any home monitoring equipment, make a note of the latest readings and share them with your GP during your appointment
  • Record the appointment using an audio recorder, smartphone or notepad so you can revisit it later or ask a family member or friend to attend and help you remember key points

Keeping healthy, managing your risk factors and symptoms and using healthcare services appropriately are important steps for self-managing CVD whilst social distancing measures are still in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Useful information: For more information on CVD and how you can manage it, please visit the following links:

Job number: PP-UN-CAR-GB-0022
Date of preparation: November 2020
1NHS. Cardiovascular Diseases. 2018. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cardiovascular-disease/ [Accessed October 2020]
2NHS. Coronary heart disease. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronary-heart-disease/ [Accessed October 2020]
3NHS. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/peripheral-arterial-disease-pad/ [Accessed October 2020]
4Stroke Association. How to reduce your risk of a stroke. Available at: https://www.stroke.org.uk/resources/how-reduce-your-risk-stroke [Accessed October 2020]
5NHS. Atherosclerosis. 2019. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atherosclerosis/ [Accessed October 2020]
6NHS. Treatment: Peripheral Arterial Disease. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/peripheral-arterial-disease-pad/treatment/ [Accessed October 2020]
7British Heart Foundation. Physical activity and your heart. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/~/media/files/publications/heart-conditions/his1_physical-activity-and-your-heart_0113.pdf  [Accessed October 2020]
8NHS North Bristol Trust. Exercise for Intermittent Claudication. Available at: https://www.nbt.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/Exercise%20for%20Intermittent%20Claudication_NBT003055.pdf [Accessed October 2020]
9Legs Matter. Knees to Toes: What You Need to Know. Available at: https://legsmatter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/LEGS-MATTER-PATIENT-LEAFLET-A4-VERSION-WHITE-BACKGROUND.pdf [Accessed October 2020]
10Legs Matter: Cramp or pain in your legs after walking. Available at: https://legsmatter.org/help-information/for-patients-family-friends/cramp-or-pain-in-your-legs-after-walking/ [Accessed October 2020]
11NHS. Using the NHS and other health services during coronavirus. 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/social-distancing/using-the-nhs-and-other-health-services/  [Accessed October 2020]
12NHS. Social distancing: what you need to do. 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/social-distancing/what-you-need-to-do/ [Accessed October 2020]

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