Scientists who have been investigating how to improve care for heart patients suffering from feelings of hopelessness and depression announced they are expanding their research to include how COVID-19 shelter-in-place and physical distancing have affected health outcomes in this population. The researchers are examining, in particular, how physical activity can mitigate these negative emotions.
According to Science Magazine, the University of Illinois Chicago investigative team and the National Institutes of Health have joined forces to broaden the focus of the “Heart Up!” study to see how it can limit the negative effects of pandemic stress on those dealing with cardiovascular issues.
The study originally enrolled 43 patients before the COVID-19 pandemic to see how physical activity can alleviate feelings of hopelessness in heart disease patients. The grant supplement provided by the NIH will allow the researchers to compare the progress of the first group of patients to those enrolled after the pandemic started, when safety precautions made it more difficult to be physically active due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
According to UIC Today, hopelessness is a negative outlook on life and a sense of helplessness toward the future. Hopelessness has been associated with decreased physical function and lower physical activity in people with heart disease.
“We are not focused on the virus itself, but on the effects of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place and physical distancing efforts on physical activity and other health outcomes,” said Susan Dunn, a UIC nursing professor and the study’s lead investigator, according to Science Magazine. “If physical activity is decreased, that puts heart disease patients at higher risk for complications and future development of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.”
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