News release: Heart & Stroke reminds Canadians to call 9-1-1 for heart attacks, stroke, cardiac arrest

Emergencies are still emergencies, scheduled appointments can be flexible

(Ottawa) — In this exceptional and challenging situation Heart & Stroke is reminding people to continue to take action in emergency medical situations. Those experiencing or witnessing a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest must call 9-1-1 (or local emergency medical services) to get immediate medical attention, even during the coronavirus disease outbreak.

“Emergencies such as stroke, heart attack and cardiac arrest still require immediate medical attention,” says Dr. Thalia Field, neurologist, Vancouver Stroke Program, and a Heart & Stroke funded researcher. “While physical distancing in the community is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19, in the event of life-threatening issues, the healthcare system is still in place to respond appropriately and first responders, emergency rooms and hospitals have precautions in place to protect patients and staff.”

While people might be worried about adding to the burden of the healthcare system, coming into contact with the virus, or being carriers themselves, no one should ignore the signs of a serious health crisis such as stroke, heart attack and cardiac arrest:

  • FAST Signs of stroke: Face - is it drooping? Arms - can you raise both? Speech - is it slurred or jumbled? Time to call 9-1-1 right away. 
  • Signs of a heart attack: chest discomfort (pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness), sweating, upper body discomfort (neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back), nausea, shortness of breath, light-headedness. Call 9-1-1, stop all activity, take nitrogylcerin, chew ASA (for example, Aspirin). 
  • Signs of cardiac arrest: sudden collapse, unresponsive to touch and sound, not breathing or making gasping sounds. Call 9-1-1 right away, shout for a defibrillator and start CPR.

Heart & Stroke also acknowledges that coronavirus disease is concerning for many people who have had a stroke or are living with heart disease and there may be confusion around keeping scheduled medical appointments during the outbreak.

“We understand people are worried about missing scheduled medical or rehabilitation appointments but also want to stay home to avoid any unnecessary contact with others,” says Dr Andrew Krahn, President, Canadian Cardiovascular Society, and Heart & Stroke funded researcher. “We have encouraged all clinics and hospitals to use telephone and video-based health care to reduce risk to all those involved if at all possible. We are urging people living with heart disease and stroke to communicate with their healthcare providers to discuss if an in-person appointment is necessary or if there is an alternate solution.”

If you have a scheduled appointment with your healthcare provider:

  • First contact your healthcare provider to determine if it is still necessary to come in.
  • If your appointment is essential, speak with your healthcare provider about options to video conference or complete your appointment over the phone.
  • Continue to take all your prescribed medications for stroke and heart disease. If you are running low, many pharmacies offer delivery services right to your home.

For more information on the coronavirus, heart disease and stroke visit All Heart & Stroke offices are closed as we seek to protect everyone’s health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are still working virtually, remaining active and committed to our communities. Essential services like our call centres, website, online donations and online communities continue.

For more information:

Stephanie Lawrence
Senior Manager, Communications, Heart & Stroke
613-691-4022 or 613-290-4236

About Heart & Stroke

Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why Heart & Stroke leads the fight against heart disease and stroke. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so people in Canada don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy.