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ER visits for heart attacks and strokes are down, likely due to COVID-19 fears

Virus Outbreak Florida
Posted at 12:14 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 12:14:06-05

Don't let yourself die of doubt. That's the message from the American Heart Association.

The group says hospitals are seeing fewer heart attack and stroke patients because people are more afraid of catching coronavirus.

In the early part of the pandemic, heart attack visits to the emergency room fell 23%. For stroke victims, that number was 20%.

Cardiologists say with a heart attacks or strokes, time makes a difference when it comes to the long-term prognosis of the patient.

“Heart attacks and strokes, if you're having symptoms, don't stay at home, don't avoid the ER for anxiety of COVID. If you're in doubt, if you have symptoms, call 911. Seconds count and hospitals overall are the safest,” said Dr. Rechmaal Gomes, a volunteer with the American Heart Association.

A Harris Poll done for the American Heart Association found 28% of adults with symptoms of a heart attack or stroke would rather stay home than risk getting infected with COVID-19 at the hospital. About 36% of adults at risk for heart disease or stroke are more worried about catching the coronavirus, 23% are more worried about a heart attack, and 22% are worried more about having a stroke.

Cardiologists say people without a primary care physician are more likely to avoid going to the hospital.

“If they have chest pain or shortness of breath, they would have gone first to the emergency room. These people are not particularly coming to the ER for that until their symptoms are worse,” said Gomes.

The concern of falling ill with COVID-19 rises in different demographic groups.

Nearly 55% of Hispanics and 45% of African Americans fear catching the coronavirus at the hospital if they thought they were suffering a heart attack or stroke. In fact, 41% of Hispanics and 33% of African Americans said they would rather just stay home than go the hospital.

The American Heart Association says anyone showing symptoms of a heart attack should call 911 or have someone take them to the hospital.