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Heart Attack Patients May Be Staying Home Due To Coronavirus

Dr. Mehdi Shishehbor recommends calling your doctor, even if it's just a video call, if you have symptoms of a heart attack. [Africa Studio / Shutterstock]
Dr. Mehdi Shishehbor says call your doctor--even if it's just a video call--if you have symptoms of a heart attack. [Africa Studio / Shutterstock]

Northeast Ohio hospitals are seeing fewer cardiac patients, but that doesn’t necessarily mean fewer people are experiencing heart problems.

During the pandemic, some may be staying home instead of seeking help.

UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute cardiologist Dr. Mehdi Shishehbor said as preparations for COVID-19 began, he and his team actually prepared for a surge. After all, a global pandemic can cause emotional stress, which can lead to physical heart issues, and COVID-19 can affect patients’ hearts.

But Shishehbor said they actually found the opposite.

“We have seen a decline in the number of patients seeking help for a heart attack of about 15-20 percent across Northeast Ohio, compared to the same time last year,” he said.

He said nationally, the numbers of people seeking help for a heart attack has also gone down.

He thinks this may be because people are scared of calling 911 and being exposed to the virus, or burdening the health care system more. Also, since some symptoms of heart attacks, such as difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, are similar to COVID-19 symptoms, people may stay home, thinking they caught the virus.

He recommends patients call a cardiologist or primary care physician for a virtual appointment, or, if a person is having severe symptoms, call 911.

Shishehbor said there are procedures in place to make sure patients aren’t exposed to the virus, and right now, Northeast Ohio hospitals are under capacity.

Shishehbor is studying the numbers more and working with doctors from MetroHealth and Cleveland Clinic, who he said have seen similar declines in cardiac patients.

He said death rates from New York City are showing more people dying at home, possibly for these reasons. He is currently doing research into Northeast Ohio numbers to see if more people are dying at home here as well.

lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158