During the lockdown, many Americans have delayed routine medical care. According to Kaiser Health News, almost half have postponed or just skipped scheduled visits and procedures (May 27, 2020). Avoiding a trip to the emergency room when you are having chest pain, however, can have tragic consequences.
Surprisingly, most people have done quite well even though they have skipped routine doctor’s appointments. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation Poll, nine out of ten people did not report serious complications as a result of deferred care. Some (6%) actually said their physical health improved since they stopped going to the doctor.
The poll reported that:
“…a similar share say their physical health has gotten worse (8%) since the coronavirus outbreak began in the U.S.”
We find that somewhat reassuring. I think most health care professionals would be surprised to learn that the vast majority of people have fared well even though they have skipped their scheduled appointments.
We found one group especially interesting. Among those 65 or older, 95% reported that their health has “stayed about the same” since the pandemic began. That’s even though they haven’t been seeing their health professionals. Only 4% reported that it had gotten worse.
What Happens If You Ignore Chest Pain?
On the other hand, a drop in emergency visits has led to more heart attacks at home, where people cannot get the life-saving care they need. A study in JAMA Cardiology (June 19, 2020) reports that from March 1st to April 25th there were almost 10 times more heart attacks outside the hospital in New York City than during the same period of 2019.
There are consequences when you ignore chest pain. For one thing, the degree of heart damage can be far greater if you are having a heart attack. Interventional cardiologists have impressive tools to enhance recovery if they are used early enough. For one thing, clogged arteries can be opened to prevent more serious damage to the heart muscle. The latest research reveals what happens if you ignore chest pain.
According to the authors of the JAMA Cardiology study:
“More than 90% of these excess cases resulted in out-of-hospital deaths.”
The conclusions of this study are quite alarming:
“The tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic is not just the number of patients infected, but the large increase in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and deaths. This catastrophe transpired despite similar rates of bystander CPR, similar EMS response times, and similar durations of resuscitation efforts, compared with 2019. The findings of this cross-sectional study emphasize the importance of intervening early in the course of COVID-19 infection, before acute decompensation.”
What Is Acute Decompensation During a Heart Attack?
When the heart is severely damaged during a heart attack, it can no longer function properly. That means the heart is not pumping blood efficiently. Decompensated heart failure can lead to difficulty breathing, fatigue and fluid buildup in legs and feet. That’s why it is so important to take prompt action if someone experiences severe chest pain.
Other symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest tightness or chest pressure
- Pain that radiates to the back, jaw or down the arm
- Breathing difficulties
- Digestive upset, nausea or vomiting
- Feeling of impending doom, anxiety
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
COVID-19 and Cardiac Complications:
We understand that people are reluctant to seek medical care during this pandemic. No one wants to go from the frying pan into the fire. But if you are experiencing chest pain or any other symptoms of a heart attack, please call 911. That also goes for stroke symptoms. Here is a link to a podcast that will provide you with crucial details about how to recognize the very first signs of a stroke.
Show 1201: Hard-to-Diagnose Conditions Can Be Deadly
Hard-to-diagnose conditions include sepsis and stroke. They can be extremely dangerous, even lethal. Learn what signs could be red flags for fast action.
No matter how reluctant people may be to seek medical care during this pandemic, symptoms that signal a heart attack or stroke require immediate emergency care.
Have You Delayed Medical Care?
Have you postponed routine doctor’s appointments? Has your physical health gotten worse, stayed the same or gotten better since the pandemic began? That is the same question that was asked in the Kaiser Family Foundation Poll. We would very much like to get your perspective. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.