Covid-19 and cardiac health: Delay in treatment, diagnosis due to pandemic impacting your heart’s health
September 16, 2020 9:42 AM
The lack of follow up of chronic conditions and ignorance of acute emergencies has led to many a mortality which has escaped media attention.
The most common ailment, blood pressure, which is the risk factor for getting strokes, heart attacks has been under neglect.
By Dr. Parneesh Arora
As we all know, we are in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic. The various travails are amply reported in the media. However, the other aspect where people with other chronic ailments and acute emergencies are being neglected mostly by themselves owing to fear of going to hospital has not been brought out. Among these, the most prominent category are cardiac patients. The lack of follow up of chronic conditions and ignorance of acute emergencies has led to many a mortality which has escaped media attention.
Let us first dwell on people having chronic cardiovascular ailments. The most common ailment, blood pressure, which is the risk factor for getting strokes, heart attacks has been under neglect. Uncontrolled blood pressure has led to many deaths because of stroke or heart attacks where people have not even got time to reach hospital sometimes. With lack of awareness and poor education status in many areas people don’t monitor their blood pressure at home and are dependent on hospital visits for the same, which has not been possible because of lockdown. Sometimes even access to medication for those people who are empanelled with government agencies for healthcare has not been there. Control of diabetes, another risk factor for heart problems and strokes has also gone awry with lack of exercise, unhealthy eating pattern and stress. The treatment and control also have been delayed in many cases because of the fear of Covid and lack of communication with healthcare facilities. Of course, lifestyle has also gone for a six with no regular exercise, sleeping pattern and unhealthy schedules with working from home. The hours on laptops have simply become unending, which in turn has limited the access and attention to healthcare leading to adverse outcomes.
Coming to emergencies, people have been afraid to seek attention even for tell-tale signs like chest pain, breathing difficulty, paralysis with a fear of contacting Covid disease if visiting hospital emergencies. Many people have died at home because of heart attacks and sometimes have been labelled as Covid related mortality since the history was not clear. We also know now that Covid increases the risk of coronary thrombosis and pulmonary thrombosis, and hence it becomes all the more necessary to seek attention if you have chest pain in association with Covid illness. Many stories have started coming to light now where patient had discomfort during lockdown period which was ignored and somehow became okay after few days, but later started developing serious symptoms like heart failure. On evaluation it was found that they had suffered a heart attack and since they didn’t report to hospital, no treatment was given. Now the ramifications of that ignorance are being seen where the muscle has become totally damaged resulting in heart failure, and nothing can be done to reverse that. Same goes for diseases like stroke which cause serious lifelong disability, if not death.
So, we can say that people with cardiovascular diseases have borne the brunt of Covid disease in the form that some did not survive and others have got lifelong disability and impaired survival as a result of heart attacks/strokes, which were ignored out of fear. Since the epidemic is nowhere near end at present and likely to stay, it is imperative that people seek medical attention for risk factors like diabetes, blood pressure and any unexplained symptoms, especially chest discomfort, breathlessness, suffocation, weakness resembling stroke etc. timely action will go a long way in saving lives and preventing lifelong disability.
(The author is Additional Director – Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Noida. Views expressed are personal.)