We might be aware that stress is a global issue, with one in three people experiencing a lot of worry, as well as psychological and physiological symptoms caused by stress.
But aside from the psychological and physiological symptoms caused by stress; over time, the physical strain can contribute to a variety of health problems if it is not managed well, and one of those is heart disease. With the growing number of heart health problems over the last few years, tech and wellness companies have moved their focus to develop innovative tools that help people better understand and manage their heart health along with promoting healthy lifestyle.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on overall wellbeing due to sudden lifestyle adjustments, along with various social and economic changes. Improving public health during this pandemic requires not only knowledge and influence of experts in the medical and biological sciences, but also those of the human sciences related to health, social and behavioral studies, including dietary habits and lifestyle.
Based on experience counseling a diverse set of client population, I’ve seen that stress and anxiety levels often increase when people face sudden, major lifestyle changes like those seen in the recent pandemic. If that stress becomes chronic, it can lead to health problems like increased risk for heart disease, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety.
A 2017 survey conducted by Cleveland clinic Abu Dhabi found that two-thirds, or 71 percent of UAE residents, are at risk of heart disease mainly due to unhealthy lifestyles factors, like lack of exercise and high stress level. Women are at a slightly higher risk than men. During a pandemic, it is more important than ever to adopt a healthier lifestyle, as the research tells us it is not only important for heart health but raising immunity against viruses and diseases. One emerging method to support healthier living comes from technology.
In the growing age of technological enhancements, many people are turning towards wearable devices to promote health, wellness and measure physical activity. By using advanced technologies to improve general health, about 75 percent of cardiovascular disease (a form of heart disease) can be prevented, according to a recent study from Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
This recent HIMSS report also showed that the majority of healthcare providers would like to have more patient-generated health data (PGHD), which is gleaned from wearable devices, to aid in managing chronic diseases and improve care delivery. The data collected from wearable devices can offer a window into management for several chronic diseases, including heart disease, and ultimately help to drive behavioral changes. Further, according to the same HIMISS report, the combination of insights from wearable devices and health coaching allows for the blend of immediate feedback, timely interventions, accountability and support that people need to succeed in healthy behavior change.
A large part of leading a healthy lifestyle is also about eating healthy. Healthy eating with proper nutrition is one of the best combinations to maintain a healthy heart. With a little help from wearable devices, you can make informed changes to your eating habits as it helps you record calorie intake, measure calories burned while tracking heart rate 24/7. The wearable devices can not only provide motivation for better eating, but help build an exercise plan aimed at achieving long term overall health benefits.
Advanced wearable devices like fitness trackers and smartwatches also include step and sleep trackers, set up goal-based exercises, breathing sessions and skin-temperature tracking. Some of the brands also offer premium features offering personalized health insights, more detailed sleep scores, customized nutrition programs, mindfulness sessions and a variety of guided workouts from popular fitness brands.
A recent study conducted during the pandemic by Fitbit, the leading global wearables brand, showed that heart health improved with an increase in active minutes even though the step counts declined when many people were still staying home and our daily schedules constantly changed. This indicated that people transitioned from gaining incidental steps throughout the day to more vigorous walks that got their hearts pumping. For example, we may not be getting our steps in during our daily commutes, but we are going on more purposeful walks to earn those active minutes. This new lifestyle has also led to a lower resting heart rate, which could be linked to an increase in sleep duration and more consistent bedtimes observed in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, contrary to expected changes. The findings indicated that people are continuously trying to adapt their behavior to prioritize their overall wellbeing, even during all the lifestyle changes associated with a pandemic.
• Tuesday, September 29 is World Heart Day
Resha Erheim is a licensed counsellor working with Fitbit to better understand and promote the overall wellbeing of the local population.