Reports of heart attacks have declined by 40 percent worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend that worries Dr. Lalit Vadlamani, Cardiovascular Interventionist at the new Heart & Vascular Center of Watauga Medical Center. But that doesn’t mean heart attacks themselves are not happening.
Says Vadlamani, “Heart attacks are not elective. They either happen or they don’t. There is no choice, which is why this statistic about a worldwide decline is so surprisingly startling. One would think that heart attacks would be on the rise, with all of this stress and anxiety we are currently experiencing in our daily lives.”
According to Vadlamani, chronic total obstruction (CTO) is a particularly concerning type of heart attack, often called a widow-maker. “With this type of heart attack there is a blockage of the left anterior descending artery. If left untreated, it could lead to death, or serious damage to the heart,” he said.
Seeking cardiac care is safe
Vadlamani continues, “The chances that you will die of a heart attack are actually much higher than dying from COVID-19. I travel extensively for my job, and hospitals nationwide have taken the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of patients being infected from COVID. The scenario has changed quite a bit, and the Emergency Departments no longer look the way they did in the past when they were crowded with sick people coughing and sneezing.
Remember that heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the U.S., and that risk of a full-blown heart attack outweighs the risk of contracting COVID-19 at the hospital. In fact, in Dr. Vadlamani’s opinion, the chances of contracting COVID from someone at the grocery store are probably higher than at the hospital.
He concludes, “Both COVID-19 and heart disease share multiple symptoms, such as shortness of breath and fatigue, and pain that radiates to other areas (such as the jaw, back or down the arm.) So please do not ignore any of these symptoms, as time is of the essence with any heart-related issue. You must act quickly and call 9-1-1 if you are unable to get yourself to the emergency room. The longer you wait or postpone it, the worse your outcome will be.”
Call the Heart & Vascular Center of Watauga Medical Center at (828) 264-9664 or request an appointment online.