New data suggests fewer people are seeking care for serious heart attacks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Heart & Stroke and Canadian Cardiovascular Society analyzed data from Ontario cardiac centres and found an unusually low number of people turning up at hospital with the most serious type of heart attack, known as a STEMI.
They found a nearly 30 per cent drop in emergency department visits between March 16 to April 12 compared to the same period last year. Vancouver Coastal Health saw an approximate 40 per cent drop in STEMI patients during a similar time period.
Researchers say it’s unlikely the number of serious heart attacks has suddenly plummmeted. They worry heart patients are at risk of greater disability or death because they may be avoiding care for fear of being exposed to COVID-19.
Society president Dr. Andrew Krahn calls the findings “distressing” and urges anyone with signs of heart attack or stroke to seek immediate medical attention.
He says the healthcare system has protocols in place to protect patients and that it is prepared to respond to life-threatening medical issues during the pandemic.
“We need to remind people that emergencies such as heart attacks and stroke require immediate medical attention and the system is there for them,” Krahn said Thursday in a release.
“Ignoring the signs of a serious health crisis can have dire consequences including greater disability or death.”
Anne Simard, chief mission and research officer at Heart & Stroke, says anyone living with a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke with new or worsening symptoms should seek urgent medical treatment.
“We know everyone is concerned given the pandemic but if these other serious issues are not treated and managed, people can become critically ill or worse,” Simard added in the same release.
The signs of stroke can be remembered with the FAST acronym: Is the Face drooping? Can you raise both Arms? Is Speech slurred or jumbled? If so, it’s Time to call 911.
Signs of a heart attack include chest pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain; sweating; discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, or upper back; nausea; shortness of breath; and light-headedness.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 30, 2020