Approximately 40% of Americans have experienced a heart-related issue since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study from the Cleveland Clinic. Lifestyle changes, stress, increased drinking, and issues gaining access to healthcare have all contributed to the spike in heart issues, alongside the general risk of heart disease itself.

Heart disease includes a host of conditions such as high blood pressure, and with COVID-19’s impact on the heart, nervous system, and other organs within the body, the number of people reporting heart-related symptoms has increased dramatically. The journal Nature published a study in February documenting the long-term impacts to the heart from COVID-19, which included damage to heart vessels, dysrhythmias, and various cardiovascular diseases.

The mortality rate as well as instances of stroke had been on a downward trend leading up to 2019, but between 2019 and 2020 those numbers spiked, according to a recent study published by the JAMA Network. Of even greater significance was the impact to Black Americans, who had an increase in heart disease mortality and stroke five times that of their white counterparts.

The impact of stress on the body is fairly well-documented, and that, alongside a quarter of Americans reporting drinking more since the onset of the pandemic, has had potentially grave repercussions for heart health.

“We do know that chronic stress, separate from diet and lifestyle choices, is independently associated with a higher risk of heart attack or stroke,” said Dr. Amy Pollak, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, reports CNET.

Another chief concern of many doctors is the number of patients who were turned away or denied non-emergency care during the height of variant spikes that saw hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. This included blood pressure monitoring and other appointments related to heart health.

Investing in Heart Health With HART

Over 16 million people die each year from heart disease in the U.S., and cardiovascular disease is the number one killer globally. Over 127 million Americans over the age of 20 currently live with the condition. With Americans able to resume more activities with the pandemic easing, the IQ Healthy Hearts ETF (HART) is positioned to benefit while also donating portions of its profits to the American Heart Association.

HART seeks to provide exposure to companies that diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease, companies that have above-average involvement in healthy food and wellness products, companies that offer solutions for people looking to track their fitness and participate in regular exercise, and companies that provide health education resources through IT services.

The fund seeks to track the IQ Candriam Healthy Hearts Index and invests across all market caps and in the U.S. and emerging markets, but it does exclude some countries, including China. Companies are screened thematically for heart health-related revenue and/or impact to heart health objectives as laid out by the fund. The index also utilizes an exclusionary screen for companies that aren’t compliant with the UN Global Compact or engage in certain activities such as animal testing, nuclear exposure, and gambling. Companies that operate in countries with oppressive regimes are also excluded.

Primary sectors included in the index as of June 2021 were healthcare, consumer discretionary, and consumer staples.

HART carries an expense ratio of 0.45% and currently invests in 80 companies.

For more news, information, and strategy, visit the Dual Impact Channel.