One of the unintended consequences of COVID-19 is that people suffering heart attacks and strokes delay seeking medical help, resulting in worse outcomes. Heart attack and stroke victims worldwide are avoiding hospitals, presenting too late to benefit from life-saving treatment. Also, individuals with known heart conditions experiencing new or worsening symptoms delay seeking medical attention due to fear of contracting COVID-19.
Across the world, doctors are reporting that those who delay in seeking medical help are in a far worse condition when they finally arrive at hospital, often too late to benefit from the life-saving treatments that are normally available.
On Monday 15 June, The Global Heart Hub (the international alliance of heart patient organizations), in collaboration with FH Europe (the European patient network focused on Dyslipidaemia, including Familial Hypercholesterolemia) launched an international ‘patient-to-patient’ confidence building campaign aimed at saving lives and reducing disability by encouraging those with symptoms of a heart or stroke emergency to seek medical help without delay. WHF, and other international organizations such as World Stroke Organisation and the European Society of Cardiology are joining the campaign to share an important message: ignoring cardiac symptoms or delaying treatment carries the risk of severe complications and potentially life-threatening consequences.
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the number of heart attack patients seeking urgent hospital care across Europe has dropped by more than 50%. Across the world there has been a large decrease in cardiac admissions to hospital (across all cardiac conditions) and there has been a significant decrease in hospital interventions both surgical and less invasive.
Prof Barbara Casadei, President of the European Society of Cardiology says, “This is the strongest evidence yet of the collateral damage caused by the pandemic. Fear of catching the coronavirus means even people in the midst of a life-threatening heart attack are too afraid to go to hospital for life-saving treatment. There has been a lack of public reassurance that every effort has been made to provide clean hospital areas for non-COVID-19 patients. Yet the risk of dying of a heart attack is much greater than that of dying of COVID-19. Moreover, cardiac death is largely preventable if patients with a heart attack come to hospital in time to get treatment. What we are witnessing is an unnecessary loss of life. Our priority must be to stop this from happening. We must continue to save the lives we know how to save.”
“The World Heart Federation stands firmly behind this patient-driven initiative aiming to save lives,” says Karen Sliwa, WHF’s President. “ As leaders of the global heart community, it is our job to help healthcare workers treat CVD patients as effectively and quickly as possible, which includes making sure they get to them in time. During the COVID-19 pandemic it may be easy to overlook other diseases that affect us and which may cause more damage in the long run. We encourage the media and the medical profession to spread this important message and help counter fear in times of uncertainty. Listen to your heart.”
The Global Heart Hub, together with FH Europe, have joined forces to lead a ‘patient-to-patient’ #JustGo Campaign reaffirming medical advice to always act quickly when it comes to symptoms of a heart attack. ‘Time is muscle’ – the longer you wait with a heart attack the more damage that occurs to your heart muscle.
The message is simple and clear – If you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, – Don’t delay – Every minute counts. If you have chest pain or other heart attack symptoms – such as pain in the throat, neck, back, stomach or shoulders that lasts for more than 15 minutes – you must call an ambulance.
Equally, if you are living with a heart condition such as heart failure or heart valve disease and if you are experiencing new symptoms, or a worsening of symptoms, you should contact your doctor or go to a hospital as soon as possible. Similarly, for those diagnosed with Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH), also its rare homozygous form (HoFH), or those under the age of 55, having a family member living with FH or multiple family members with a history of heart disease or stroke – don’t ignore the symptoms of heart attack, act quickly.
Prof Lale Tokgozoglu, President of the European Atherosclerosis Society says, “All over Europe, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected patients with cardiovascular disease and lipid disorders. Following guidance to “Stay at home”, and concerned about contracting the coronavirus disease, patients have interrupted their treatment regimens and those with symptoms have waited too long to contact their doctor, and stayed away from hospital. When they eventually seek treatment, many have developed complications that have a negative effect on their recovery. Although most countries are now opening up, the fear continues and patients still prefer to stay home. The European Atherosclerosis Society supports the #JustGo campaign – we want everyone to know how important it is to seek help quickly at the first sign of heart problems, despite the current pandemic.”
“Many young patients with Familial Hypercholesterolemia, or other conditions predisposing to heart attacks, have advanced atherosclerosis, but have not yet had a heart attack. Coronavirus infection could trigger that first heart attack,” says FH Europe’s Dr Samuel Gidding.
The #JustGo Campaign hopes to reassure people across the world that the risk of coronavirus infection in hospital has been minimized for patients being admitted with heart attacks or strokes. The campaign also reminds the public that the risk of dying from an untreated heart attack is 10 times higher than dying from COVID-19. If you are experiencing a heart or stroke emergency – this is NOT the time to ‘stay at home’ – When your heart says so… Just Go! #JustGo
Learn more – https://globalhearthub.org/justgo/