A healthy diet and an active lifestyle are two leading tools in promoting good cardiovascular health. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

The steady decline in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks has enabled Spectrum Health to relax visitor restrictions.

“I’m smiling today because we continue to move in the right direction,” Spectrum Health West Michigan President Darryl Elmouchi, MD, MBA, said in a recent video interview.

Dr. Elmouchi talked about the welcome change in visitor guidelines and also discussed the importance of good cardiovascular health.

The month of February is designated heart month, giving our team members an important opportunity to raise awareness about cardiovascular care and heart disease.

Q: How is Spectrum Health doing in COVID-19 hospitalizations and positivity rate?

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients have dipped to almost 200 and the positivity rate is below 20% for the first time in months. Visitor restrictions are being slightly relaxed, too.

Two visitors will now be allowed in any Spectrum Health hospital, with the exception of the emergency department, urgent care, and radiology and lab, where only one visitor will be allowed.

“Things are starting to feel—I won’t say normal yet—but definitely heading in that direction,” Dr. Elmouchi said.

Q: Will visitor restrictions ever go away entirely?

It all comes down to the safety of Spectrum Health patients, team members and visitors. There is still a fair amount of COVID-19 circulating in the community. Limiting large numbers of visitors will help prevent that spread.

Q: How is Spectrum Health recognizing heart month?

Team members will wear red on Fridays, while bridges at Spectrum Health hospitals will be lit red.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with well over 700,000 people dying from the disease each year. This equates to one death every 36 seconds.

“We will be promoting our Lifestyle Medicine practice and hosting a healthy eating challenge based on plant-based foods,” Dr. Elmouchi said. “There are many ways to get involved.”

Q: What would you say to someone who may have postponed treatment or checkups during the pandemic?

Some people have had to put off health care treatment and appointments for any number of reasons during the pandemic. But the important thing is to seek care when you need it and take preventative steps.

As this relates to cardiovascular health in particular: “Prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Dr. Elmouchi said. “It is so important to prevent heart disease.”

This includes eating right, exercising, losing weight, taking the right medications and managing blood pressure.

“Seek the right care and prevention, and focus on all the right things,” Dr. Elmouchi said.