A survey undertaken among the general population of India and commissioned by a top American hospital, Cleveland Clinic, has found the vast majority – 86.6% of people surveyed – have adopted one or more health habits during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The most common new habits reported were eating a healthier diet (60.5%), exercising more (46.9%), natural stress reduction such as yoga and breathing exercises (41.0%), taking additional vitamins/supplements (37.3%), and losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight (34.2%).
Leslie Cho, MD, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center, welcomes the findings, saying these are all areas that should be addressed when aiming to reduce your risk factors for heart disease and keeping your immune system strong.
“Studies have shown that being significantly overweight can increase the risk of complications from Covid-19,” says Dr. Cho. “We are happy to see people focusing on healthy foods in the survey, and we recommend the Mediterranean diet which is the most heart-healthy diet. Many risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and cholesterol can be lowered by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising and quitting smoking.”
Dr. Cho is also impressed at the large proportion of people increasing the amount of exercise they do. “Our bodies function better when we’re physically active every day,” she says. She recommends carving out at least 10 minutes a day, ideally 30 minutes, and doing a mixture of cardio and strength training.
As for lifestyle choices to reduce stress, Dr. Cho confirms the efficacy of these measures in supporting the immune system. She explains that living under constant stress, even low-grade stress, that continues day in and out, causes the body to produce too much cortisol, the stress hormone. She adds that over time, elevated cortisol lowers a person’s resistance to fighting off infection and contributes to poor sleep and higher blood pressure.
The survey results were not all positive however, as they also found that 63.7% of respondents delayed routine health screenings due to the outbreak. Some of the routine health screenings included tests for known health conditions (29.5%) as well as annual physicals (24.3%), dental screenings (24.1%), colonoscopy (9.0%), prostate exam (5.3%) and mammograms (3.8%).
Samir Kapadia, MD, chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, warns patients not to wait to seek treatment if something doesn’t feel right. “At Cleveland Clinic, we urge people to continue seeing the doctor for regular health checks and screenings since many diseases are easier to treat if caught early,” says Dr. Kapadia. “Hospitals, including Cleveland Clinic, are taking every precaution to keep patients safe while at the doctor’s office.”
Other more positive news from the survey found that only 13.4% of respondents had not adopted any healthier habits amid Covid-19. In addition, 18.1% had lowered their alcohol consumption, while 16.0% had stopped smoking.
Cleveland Clinic regularly welcomes patients from India seeking complex medical care at its US facilities.