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Experts share the 5 things that should be on your post-lockdown health to-do list.

AHA News: Life After Lockdown Should Start With This Healthy To-Do List

WEDNESDAY, June 3, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- COVID-19 lockdowns are easing across the U.S., but is it safe to go back to the gym? Or the doctor?

And when it is safe, what should be on your post-lockdown health checklist?

As you prioritize your health to-do list, be aware of coronavirus rates in your area, your personal risk from COVID-19 based on your age and medical conditions, and what experts are advising in your area and for your personal care.

Read the full American Heart Association story.

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Experts warn of a mental health pandemic after this first wave of COVID-19, which could include people experiencing problems such as PTSD, depression and anxiety.

American Heart Association News: Looking for Ways to Protect Against Pandemic PTSD

TUESDAY, June 2, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- As many places start to look forward to life after the first wave of the coronavirus, another type of illness could be about to follow in its wake.

"We're going to have many more mental health issues as time goes on," said Dr. Rima Styra, a psychiatrist at Toronto's University Health Network and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. "And people will refer to it as a mental health pandemic."

U.S. crisis centers already report being flooded with calls. The Well Being Trust, a foundation that focuses on mental health issues, predicts the pandemic could cause 75,000 "deaths of despair" from suicide or addiction.

Read the full American Heart Association story.

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Doctors are anecdotally reporting a surprising number of severe strokes in patients with COVID-19, but the possible links between stroke and COVID-19 aren't clear at this time.

Doctors Consider Possible Stroke and COVID-19 Connection

TUESDAY, May 12, 2020 (American Heart Association News) --The first thing to know about the possible links between COVID-19 and stroke is simple, say doctors: We just don't know.

"We have very serious worries that there's a connection," said Dr. Patrick D. Lyden, professor of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "But I want to make it crystal clear that if we stay focused on evidence and data – which we really need to do more of at this moment – we don't know anything with probability."

Lyden, who wrote American Heart Association guidance for stroke centers about how to handle the coronavirus for its journal Stroke, said doctors anecdotally were reporting "a surprising number of very severe strokes at this time" in COVID-19 patients.

Read the full American Heart Association News story.

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COVID-19 has affected every aspect of the health care system, and that includes caregivers, whose normal support systems have been buckled by the pandemic.

American Heart Association News: Caregiving Is Never Easy, and COVID-19 Has Made It Harder

THURSDAY, May 7, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- Melia Wilkinson cares for her husband, Kerry, who in 2014 had a massive stroke.

Today, the 57-year-old has no use of his left hand, limited use of his left leg, and relies on a cane to get around the house. Kerry can do many things on his own, Melia said, but she helps him with daily activities, such as dressing, and manages his medical care.

While caregiving has always been challenging, the era of COVID-19 is fraught with new anxiety."We have nobody," she said. "I worry if I get COVID, there isn't a person who could step in."

The couple and their teenage daughter live near Seattle in King County, Washington, an early U.S. coronavirus hotbed, and far from relatives. Since the virus appeared, Melia has discontinued housekeeping help, and social distancing has put their small network of friends and ex-colleagues out of reach.

Normal support systems have buckled, said clinical psychologist and health care consultant Barry J. Jacobs. For loved ones who need help at home, longtime health aides may now be unavailable. Or families might be torn between allowing outside aides to continue care, risking coronavirus exposure, versus taking over that care – or letting the care gap go unfilled.

Read the full American Heart Association News story.

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Smoking has been identified as a risk factor for severe COVID-19-related disease and death by both the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why Lighting Up and COVID-19 Don't Mix

TUESDAY, May 5, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- As evidence continues to grow that people who smoke are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19, health professionals are turning to a familiar message with new urgency: There may be no better time to quit than today.

While researchers gather more data as the virus spreads, both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified smoking as a risk factor for severe coronavirus-related disease and death.

Studies from Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus emerged in December, showed smokers were 1.4 times more likely to display severe COVID-19 symptoms and 2.4 times more likely to be sent to an intensive care unit, require mechanical ventilation or die, compared to non-smokers.

Read the full American Heart Association News story.

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Distance and low density can offer some protection against the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, but rural areas also have their own unique challenges when it comes to an infectious disease like the coronavirus.

American Heart Association News: Far From Immune, Rural Areas Face Unique COVID-19 Challenges

THURSDAY, April 30, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- Since late last year, COVID-19 has been overwhelming health care facilities in urban areas around the world, causing more than 12,200 deaths so far in New York City alone.

As has become increasingly clear, however, rural areas are not immune.

During the past month, hundreds of pork plant workers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have tested positive for COVID-19 – one of many outbreaks in meat processing facilities throughout the country. And the Navajo Nation reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, has more than 1,600 cases.

While distance and low density offer some protection against the spread of infectious diseases, rural areas also have their own unique vulnerabilities.

"We see higher rates of hypertension, heart disease, obesity and less physical activity in rural areas," said Dr. Regina Benjamin, the 18th U.S. surgeon general under President Barack Obama. She founded a health clinic in rural Alabama and continues to work there today.

"All of those things contribute to overall health in rural communities," she said, and serious underlying health conditions may increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates for heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke – the five leading causes of death in the United States – are higher in rural areas than in urban ones.

Read the full American Heart Association story.

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Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, the chief medical officer of the American Heart Association, shares his thoughts on when we might be able to go back to work and school — and what needs to be done before then for that to happen.

AHA News: When Can We Safely Get Back to Work and School?

Dr. Eduardo Sanchez is the American Heart Association's chief medical officer for prevention and a former state health commissioner of Texas. He has dealt with major public health crises, including the SARS outbreak.

Thursday, April 23, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- With millions of people missing paychecks, braving danger for essential work and getting really tired of being cooped up, we're all wondering the same thing: When can we go back?

The simple answer is: As soon as it's safe. The more complicated question is, how we will get back to work and school?

Read the full American Heart Association News story.

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Churches can provide powerful help in a health crisis as a source of prayer, a source of information and a source of care to different people with different needs.

AHA News: As African Americans Struggle With COVID-19 Disparities, Churches Step In

TUESDAY, April 21, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- The coronavirus pandemic is hitting African Americans hard, early data suggest. But Sonjia B. Dickerson doesn't need a spreadsheet to tell her that.

She lost a beloved uncle to apparent COVID-related causes. A cousin succumbed to the same. Another relative is fighting the disease. And Dickerson, pastor of the Dayspring Family Church – a nondenominational, predominantly African American church in Irving, Texas – just planned her first Zoom memorial service. It was for a family that was unable to gather in person to mourn because of travel restrictions.

It's been a tough season for Dickerson and other clergy, as they try to help people struggling physically and financially, while observing restrictions to gather for the social and spiritual uplift a church can provide.

But, she said, "This is what we're called to do." And those efforts show the influence a church can have in addressing African Americans' needs during the pandemic – which include longstanding concerns that might have put them at risk.

Read the full American Heart Association News story.