LUBBOCK, Texas — February is ‘American Heart Month’ and with COVID-19 leading to increased stress and anxiety, doctors find it important to acknowledge how those factors impact the heart.

Covenant Medical Group Interventional Cardiologist, Dr. Jason Strefling, said stress and anxiety can be a vicious circle and it’s important to look for signs ahead of time.

“Often times patients will describe chest pain and palpitations” said Dr. Strefling, “and those can increase [with] added stress.”

However even without underlying conditions, Dr. Strefling said patients can still show signs of cardiomyopathy, a condition making it harder for the body to pump blood.

For Tondra Gail, anxiety is something she had to learn to work through by surrounding herself with family and getting outdoors.

“You know when I had to stop working due to this pandemic the anxiety has been cripling at times, but my mom and I have always talked,” said Gail. “I just pick up the phone and I call her, she’ll pray with me.”

Dr. Strefling adds that the good news is the affects of these stress factors is reversible. He encourages those facing this added stress and anxiety to get out and get active.

“Seasonal Affective Disorder or staying inside, especially in this pandemic that we are in, can create a lot of pressure and create a lot of anxiety,” said Dr. Strefling. “So getting outside, walking around, getting active and exercising has significant cardiovascular benefit.”