A recent study has found that heart attack cases in the U.S. have fallen by 50 percent during the pandemic. However, the death rate from heart attacks has doubled in some locations. Fear of going to the hospital because of COVID-19 could be causing greater health consequences.
A study from JAMA Cardiology that looked at 1,400 patients in six states found a significant increase in the death rate from heart attacks.
Dr. Bill Lewis, a cardiologist at MetroHealth, said he’s taken a look at stress test rates for MetroHealth from 2019 and 2020. He found the rate of stress testing has been 45 percent lower, which is an important screening method for heart conditions.
“We’re trying to catch people before the heart attack, not to wait for the horse to be in the meadow and the barn door’s still wide open,” he said.
Although Lewis understands people are worried about COVID-19, he doesn’t want patients to avoid going to the doctor and miss out on crucial medical care.
“We have to also remember that there are other medical conditions that also cause serious harm, and we need to be careful about making sure we’re taking care of them,” he said.
Lewis urges those who are experiencing shortness of breath or chest discomfort to contact their doctors.
He worries the pandemic is putting people more at risk for heart conditions.
“Especially in the time period we’re talking about during COVID-19 where people typically are not exercising as much as they should be, and they may not be eating as well as they should be. And they’re cooped up. And they have a fear of going to a medical center,” he said.
According to Lewis, MetroHealth has taken significant precautions to stop the spread of the virus, including mandatory masks, increased cleaning and patient screenings.