COVID is a Health Wake-Up Call for Many Americans
I wish the news about COVID-19 were better. I’d like to say, congratulations -- you’ve made it through the worst of the pandemic! Unfortunately, this virus seems to be hanging around and we’re still in early stages.
Many feel the weight of this crisis emotionally and physically — I certainly do. According to an MDVIP/Ipsos survey conducted on July 9, half of Americans are more stressed, anxious or depressed than before the pandemic, and one in three say they’ve developed unhealthy habits during this time.
But the survey results weren’t all negative. As an internist and Chief Medical Officer of MDVIP, I found some of the statistics quite encouraging:
- 69% said they’re more motivated to improve their health in light of the pandemic
- 54% said a healthy diet is now more important
- 52% said getting their weight under control is more important now
- 45% say they are exercising regularly now
For many, COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of improving our modifiable risk factors. That’s a health message we primary care providers cannot overstate. Lifestyle changes, such as eating better and exercising can help you stay healthy. Those healthy modifications can also reduce your risk of several chronic conditions, including, cardiovascular disease, cancer, upper respiratory disease, and diabetes.
Aside from diet and exercise, there are additional ways to strengthen your immune system and improve your overall health. We’ve created a handy mnemonic device to help you do just that, and we call it “The Three Ps.”
Prioritize (your health)
What’s more important than your health? Your physician wants you to focus on both your physical and emotional health.
Get to a healthy body weight, eat well and do your best to get chronic conditions under control. Improving these aspects of your health will boost your immune system and could help mitigate your risk of severe illness if you do contract COVID-19.
You should also prioritize your emotional health. Reduce your stress level by making time for activities that truly bring you joy. Focus your energy on people who make you feel good and spend less time with people who don’t. This may need to be by phone, over video chat or with six long feet between you but connecting with others can significantly improve your emotional health.
The MDVIP/Ipsos survey found the following most common ways that Americans have reprioritized their emotional health since the pandemic began:
- Getting outside and appreciating nature (60%)
- Connecting or reconnecting with family/friends (57%)
- Cutting frustrating people out of their life (52%)
- Enjoying a new or existing hobby (45%)
Partner (with your doctor)
About seven in 10 Americans say the pandemic has been a wake-up call to get healthy, although it doesn’t mean that the majority of Americans have taken consistent, concrete steps toward that goal. Change is hard in the best of times, but this is an area where MDVIP-affiliated primary care providers truly shine.
With a smaller practice, your MDVIP-affiliated doctor knows you and is truly invested in your goals, challenges, health history and risk factors. You should also rely on your physician as a trusted source for personalized health advice to keep you as safe as possible from COVID-19. Your doctor can:
- Keep you informed of the most up-to-date, relevant public health information
- Explain your risk for serious complications and what steps you can take
- Provide direction if you feel ill and suspect it might be COVID-19
Taking steps to prevent infection may be more important now than ever. Although the preventive measures and guidelines for COVID-19 have been consistent for a while now, I feel we all could use a reminder.
It is understandable that many of us feel fatigued from social distancing, and in some cases, economic restrictions as a result of the pandemic. The “new normal” isn’t normal for anyone. But now is not the time to let our guard down while the virus continues to spread.
Based upon the best available evidence and public health guidance, the only ways to reliably reduce the risk of getting or transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19, are:
- Wear a face covering/mask in public
- Practice social distancing
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- Avoid crowds, particularly in closed, indoor spaces
- Skip unnecessary outings