The COVID-19 pandemic keeps you from climbing up on an examination table in your provider’s office, but it doesn’t need to stop you from activities that maintain your vascular health.
Dr. Ali Irshad, a vascular surgeon with the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute, said following healthy habits and understanding what to watch for and when you need to call the doctor should guide patients through the crisis.
“During these unprecedented times, we know our patients may be concerned about getting the care they may need,” Dr. Irshad said. “We are still available to answer questions or have a virtual, telehealth visit if needed.”
Controlling medical conditions – including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, renal disease and lung disease – are especially important at this time, as is continuing to be active, he said.
“The current recommendation from the American Heart Association (AHA) is to perform 30 minutes of exercise a day, five times a week,” he added.
He also acknowledged that conservative therapy with medicine and lifestyle modifications can minimize the effects of vascular disease.
Other directives are diagnosis-specific, Dr. Irshad said. They include:
- Aortic Aneurysm (AA): If you have been diagnosed with one measuring less than 5 centimeters, the risk of rupture is low. If it is larger, you and your provider will decide if you need urgent surgical intervention or can wait. To decrease the risk of rupture, he suggested “aggressively” controlling your blood pressure, abstaining from smoking and controlling any chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If you have been diagnosed with AA, look for as pain in the chest or abdomen that radiates to the back or sides. This could be a sign of AA that may rupture. If you have any of these symptoms, go to the nearest emergency room for evaluation.
- Carotid Stenosis: If you have this diagnosis but have not had symptoms of a stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), the chance you will have a stroke in the next year is less than 1 percent. You can still, Dr. Irshad noted, prevent disease progression and optimize treatment by taking your statin and antiplatelet medications, controlling hypertension and diabetes, exercising 30 minutes a day and abstaining from smoking. If you have a carotid stenosis diagnosis and have had recent TIA/stroke symptoms, contact your vascular surgeon for a telehealth visit to determine your need for medical therapy.
- Peripheral Arterial Disease: To reduce symptoms, slow the disease and improve your heart health, Dr. Irshad recommended such lifestyle changes as quitting smoking, walking 30 to 45 minutes at least three times a week, losing weight and controlling chronic health problems like diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Also, inspect your feet daily to help prevent and identify serious problems that can lead to ulcers or amputation. Look for injuries, ingrown toenails and/or cuts. Avoid dry skin by using moisturizing lotions, and wear breathable, close-toed shoes that are properly fitted for you. If you notice wounds on your feet that do not heal, Dr. Irshad said to call your provider for a telehealth consultation.
“At Hartford HealthCare,” Dr. Irshad said, “we have created a robust telehealth virtual visit system that is seamless and easy to use for both patients and physicians. It can be done with your laptop or smartphone. We are here to help our existing patients and anyone needing vascular care.”
If you have any concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should consult with your vascular doctor in person or through a virtual visit. For more information about virtual health visits, click here.
Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.
Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.
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