The Heart of the Matter

03-14-2021Nurse's LetterShannon David, RN, NCSN

This past week, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the sixth graders, who have been studying the cardiovascular system, and teach them how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). The presence of the two AEDs on our campus, for more than a decade, is evidence of the concern for the health, safety and well being of the OLMC community that preceded the current pandemic. In talking with the students about heart disease, heart attack and sudden cardiac death, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between helping a person manage their heart disease and understanding how we can continue to succeed in managing the possibility of infection during this pandemic.

Generally speaking, anyone can develop heart disease. It is well known that there are risk factors, or conditions, that can contribute to the development of heart disease. These risk factors have been separated into two categories: Modifiable and Non-modifiable. Modifiable risk factors are things that can be changed like weight, blood pressure, cholesterol level and smoking. Non-modifiable risk factors are those that cannot be changed like age, gender and family history. To be at risk for the development of heart disease doesn’t mean that one will develop it or succumb to it. There are a number of preventative measures a person can take to lessen the risk by managing those modifiable risk factors. Even though non-modifiable risk factors will never change, one can still live a full, healthy life. Similarly, with COVID-19, research is emerging that is helping to establish an approach that mirrors that of heart disease.

A recently published study from the UK concluded that “modification of lifestyle may help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and could be a useful adjunct to other interventions, such as social distancing and shielding of high risk” (Modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for COVID-19). In large part, every mitigation measure we have taken this year has been aimed at controlling those modifiable risks that we can while recognizing there are those that are simply beyond our control. Either due to our collective efforts or, more likely, the very profound impact of immunity that is being conferred through vaccination, we are seeing dramatic changes in the numbers of cases of infection and hospitalizations. In the “Daily COVID-19 Update” from Maricopa County Department of Public Health for March 12, this information was posted: “Maricopa County continues to see downward trends in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from their early January peaks. As of March 8, the 7-day rolling average was 492 cases per day. That’s compared to 1,483 cases per day on February 8 and 6,142 cases per day on January 8. We encourage everyone to keep taking preventive measures as we work to get vaccine to eligible populations and eventually to everyone who wants it.” ( Although the numbers are improving, we will continue with our current mitigation strategies as outlined in our “Smart, Healthy & Holy” plan. To use the analogy of someone with heart disease, once one has done the hard work to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and lose weight, for example, the risk will not go away if those things are not maintained.

Together, “Home & School” we have worked very hard to create a safe, healthy environment where our children can come each day without fear or anxiety to be educated, nurtured and loved. Let’s maintain that! “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).