(Ottawa) — New data collated by Heart & Stroke and Canadian Cardiovascular Society confirm what health professionals across the country have been witnessing first-hand during the COVID-19 pandemic: an unexplained reduction in hospital visits for serious health issues.
New data from cardiac centres in Ontario (released by CorHealth Ontario) reveal a close to 30% reduction in visits to the emergency department between March 16 to April 12 due to STEMIs (the most serious type of heart attack) compared to the same period last year. Vancouver Coastal Health has seen an approximate 40% drop in STEMI patients during a similar time period.
“This data is distressing because there is no reason to believe that fewer events are happening,” says Dr Andrew Krahn, President, Canadian Cardiovascular Society, and Heart & Stroke funded researcher. “We need to remind people that emergencies such as heart attacks and stroke require immediate medical attention and the system is there for them. Ignoring the signs of a serious health crisis can have dire consequences including greater disability or death.”
Other countries have also reported people are delaying or avoiding treatment for medical emergencies such as heart attack or stroke. There has been a 38% reduction in STEMIs in the US according to a recent study in the Journal of American College of Cardiology and a 40% reduction in Spain. An Italian study highlighted hospital admissions for minor stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIA) have been cut in half and a survey from the European Stroke Association indicates a dramatic reduction in usual acute and post-acute stroke care.
“Anyone living with a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke who experiences new or worsening symptoms should seek urgent medical treatment. We know everyone is concerned given the pandemic but if these other serious issues are not treated and managed, people can become critically ill or worse,” says Anne Simard, Chief Mission and Research Officer, Heart & Stroke.
While people might be worried about adding to the burden of the healthcare system, coming into contact with the coronavirus, or being carriers and spreading the virus themselves, no one should ignore the signs of a serious health crisis. The healthcare system is prepared and ready to respond appropriately to life-threatening medical issues during the pandemic. Healthcare facilities are following public health measures and have protocols in place to protect patients, staff, and the general public.
Anyone who experiences a change or worsening of an existing chronic condition should contact their healthcare team or go to their local hospital. Anyone who witnesses or experiences the signs of heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest should call 9-1-1 right away:
- FAST Signs of stroke: Face – is it drooping? Arms – can you raise both? Speech – is it slurred or jumbled?
- 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.
- Signs of cardiac arrest: sudden collapse, unresponsive to touch and sound, not breathing or making gasping sounds.
For more information on the coronavirus, heart disease and stroke visit heartandstroke.ca.
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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.
About Canadian Cardiovascular Society
The Canadian Cardiovascular Society is the national voice for cardiovascular clinicians and scientists, representing almost 2,000 cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and other heart health specialists across Canada. We advance heart health for all by setting standards for excellence in heart health and care, building the knowledge and expertise of the heart team, and influencing policy and advocating for the heart health of all Canadians.