Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society analyzed data from Ontario heart centers and found an unusually low number of people coming to the hospital with the most severe type of heart attack, known as STEMI .
They found a drop of almost 30% in emergency room visits between March 16 and April 12 compared to the same period last year. Vancouver Coastal Health experienced an approximately 40% decline in the number of STEMI patients over a similar period.
Researchers say the number of serious heart attacks is unlikely to have suddenly dropped. They fear that heart patients may be at greater risk of death or disability, as they may avoid care for fear of being exposed to COVID-19.
WATCH | Doctors are concerned about the dramatic drop in emergency room visits to Canada:
Company president Dr. Andrew Krahn called the results “distressing” and urged anyone with signs of heart attack and stroke to seek medical attention immediately.
Krahn said empty emergency departments are a concern for health care providers like him because they don’t mean people are okay. Rather, they mean that people stay at home and need urgent medical care for a variety of reasons.
“I’m talking about heart problems,” said Krahn. “But we know for example that there are more patients who suffer from strokes at home and don’t come to the attention. And kidney failure where they come in and by the time they get in, they need dialysis. “
He said the health care system has put in place precautions to test people for COVID-19 and to protect patients, and is ready to respond to life-threatening medical problems during the pandemic.
Anne Simard, Chef de Mission and Research Fellow at Heart & Stroke, says that anyone living with a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke with new symptoms or worsening of symptoms should consult emergency medical treatment.
“We know everyone is concerned about the pandemic, but if these other serious problems are not addressed and managed, people can become seriously ill or worse,” Simard said in a statement.
The signs of stroke can be recalled with the acronym FAST:
- Is the Face falling?
- Can you increase both Arms?
- East Sblurry or blurred peech?
- If yes, it is Time to call 911.
Signs of a heart attack include chest pressure, compression, fullness or pain; sweat; discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulders, arms or upper back; nausea; shortness of breath; and dizziness.