Most people would do almost anything to avoid going to the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic over fears of contracting the novel coronavirus.
Unfortunately, that has included many people ignoring the signs of a heart attack.
Researchers say people are more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack during the COVID-19 pandemic because many aren’t going to the hospital after experiencing symptoms of heart trouble.
Lifestyle changes and additional stress during COVID-19 may be increasing certain people’s risk of having a heart attack.
The study focused on heart attacks during the pandemic.
Researchers in Oregon and Washington state — two areas that saw large outbreaks of the coronavirus — found that people who suffered a severe heart attack were more than twice as likely to die from it as COVID-19 struck the United States compared with previous years.
The study looked at 15,244 hospitalizations involving 14,724 patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) — the medical term for a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. The blockage is most often a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances, which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart (coronary arteries).
Sometimes, a plaque can rupture and form a clot that blocks blood flow. The interrupted blood flow can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle.
A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, can be fatal, but treatment has improved dramatically over the years.
Symptoms of heart attack
Common heart attack signs and symptoms include:
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
Lifestyle and stress
While it’s reasonable to have fears about being treated for nearly anything that isn’t immediately life threatening, people are resoundingly brushing off symptoms of a heart attack.
What’s worse is that shelter-in-place orders can make people fall into unhealthy routines, which could increase the risks of a heart attack. These include eating poorly, exercising less, or leaning more heavily on substances such as alcohol.
There’s also the new level of stress of trying to avoid the virus during simple daily activities, such as going to the grocery store or running other errands.
Even not being able to see our friends and loved ones, including disruptions in our routine, can be bad for our hearts. Research has shown the inflammation caused by depression can increase a person’s risk for a heart attack.
In addition, some of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, such as pain in the chest and upper body, sweating, nausea, fatigue, or trouble breathing, also align with symptoms of COVID-19.
Even if a heart attack doesn’t kill you immediately, doctors say delaying treatment could lead to life-altering ramifications, including heart conditions like cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure.
Why swift action is necessary
Much like our response to the coronavirus should have been swift to avoid unnecessary deaths, experts say the same is true for how we should respond if we experience symptoms of a heart attack.
You should contact your doctor or call 995 immediately when your chest feels heavy and your arms hurt or feel numb, along with other symptoms,
Limiting the time of blood limitation to the heart muscle can save the heart function
With poor heart function, your long-term outcome is not good. Thus, despite the pandemic, if you have symptoms of heart attack, seek help immediately, as it may very well be the difference between life and death