While the world fights Covid-19 crisis, there appears to be a looming threat of increased burden of heart patients as fear of the pandemic has been keeping these patients away from hospitals leading to the delay in required medical attention. Given the scenario, eminent cardiologists appear to the patients and caregivers to not compromise on heart health on World Heart Day. An initiative by the World Heart Federation to spread awareness about heart health, this year the campaign is asking the world to Use Heart to beat the cardiovascular disease.
In most countries across the world, cardiovascular diseases (“CVDs”) remain the world’s leading cause of death but it is observed that the number of treatments for critical non-COVID procedures by both private and government hospital facilities across the country had dropped over 20 percent between February and April’ 2020, which was the first phase of a pandemic. In fact, as per the latest data by the National Health Authority, cardiology related procedures had fallen by 76% in that period. Due to the pandemic, CVD patients are exposed to the double-edged threat. Not only are they more at risk of developing severe forms of the virus, but they may also be afraid to seek ongoing care for their hearts
Suppressing even mild heart-attack symptoms may lead to life-threatening situations. “Hospitals across the world havewitnessed almost 50 per cent decrease in patients with heart attacks which could be a result of heart patients suppressing their symptoms to avoid hospital visits out of fear of contracting corona virus. It is important to realize that the risk of dying of a heart attack is much higher than that of dying of COVID-19 and also that cardiac death is largely preventable if patients get timely treatment”, said Dr. Shirish(M.S.) Hiremath, Director, Cathlab, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, President, Elect, Past, CSI 2016-18.
As per reports from across hospitals, even as people are not reaching the hospitals for treatments, there has been a clear increase in the number of cardiac arrests at home, which may have been triggered due to the delay in getting proper medical attention. Although the community-level data cannot be easily sourced in India, there are evidence that more people are dying at home due to underlying conditions such as CVDs especially because the elderly as they are scared to go to hospitals due to corona fears, leading to delay in treatment and avoidable death.
In the most severe instances of heart attacks, when a major artery to the heart becomes blocked, urgent treatment with a stent can restore blood flow, saves lives, and prevents disability. In fact, the latest generation of drug-eluting stents with robust clinical data of more than 10000 patients can help in providing better clinical outcomes in complex patients. The procedural results can be further optimized using Intravascular imaging which helps the physician see inside the blood vessel and take procedure-related decisions for better outcomes. However, delay in this treatment can cause irreversible damage to the heart muscle, substantially increasing the risk of heart failure and death.
It is important for patients and caregivers to understand that heart patient mustn't delay or postpone any treatment due to fears over COVID-19 if the need arises. They should realize the fact that only timely intervention can save their lives. In fact, medical research organizations I like ICMR has formulated and issued treatment protocols for managing cardiac cases during the COVID-19 pandemic said Dr.C.N. Manjunath, Director, Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, Bangalore
Patients and caregivers should be aware of any symptoms even if it is mild such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, tiredness and immediately consult a cardiologist. If one has chest pain or other heart attack symptoms – such as pain in the throat, neck, back, stomach or shoulders that lasts for more than 15 minutes – immediate medical attention should be provided.
Moreover, it is important to note that patients with pre-existing heart ailments or a history of heart attacks previous heart attacks, or heart failure are at a greater risk of contracting the virus. Those above 60 years with hypertension or diabetes have a five times greater risk of dying from it. Even a case of mild coronavirus infection can lead to severe damage to heart patients and may require immediate hospital care. Thus, apart from protecting themselves from COVID infection heart patients should not be afraid of reaching out to the nearest hospitals for the treatment.