april 23, 2020

COVID-19: A GP’s tips for those living with chronic conditions


Dr Roger Henderson, GP and UK medical director at Liva Healthcare, 
shares his advice for people with underlying health conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 is a significant concern to people with underlying health conditions. Some of the underlying health conditions believed to heighten the risk among patients are heart disease, lung disease (such as COPD and asthma), diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer or an existing immunity condition. These conditions reduce the body’s ability to fight off infection or illness, so the symptoms and impact from infection can be worse.

Everybody should follow their government’s advice around handwashing and social distancing. Self-isolation is recommended for all at risk people and while we know this is a huge disruption to people, it will save lives.

It’s also important that everybody gets enough rest, drinks plenty of water, eats a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables, and exercises if possible, even if that means doing it indoors.

Stay active – even indoors

It may seem counterintuitive but the less we exercise, the more tired we may feel. Prolonged inactivity, even in fit people, can make us tired and unmotivated. The term ‘use it or lose it’ easily applies here. The impact of exercise on fatigue is well known as it positively alters our biochemical and hormonal balance and so reduces stress and depression and improves energy levels, mood and self-esteem. Exercising every day – even for a small amount – is advisable in this time of lockdown and social isolation.

Be mindful of worries and try to de-stress

Chronic stress, even at a low level, can be very emotionally draining. Staying inactive and indoors for long periods raises levels of anxiety-linked hormones, such as adrenaline in the body. This can – although potentially helpful in acute short-lived stress – impact on the body to lower energy levels and cause both physical and mental fatigue. One of the reasons exercise can be of benefit here is that it helps to ‘burn off’ these hormones which is one of the reasons we feel less stressed after exercise.

It is usually advisable to discuss feelings of stress and anxiety with your GP but at this time, that may not be possible. Make sure you get enough rest – go to bed and get up at the same time and resist the temptation to lie in – exercise every day, even if this is indoors, and little and often and get fresh air if you can. Do not snack on sugary foods, eat regular meals in the day and keep your alcohol consumption low. All of the above will go a long way in addressing feelings of tiredness, stress – helping you to be healthier and happier.

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