SIDNEY – It’s been more than six weeks since Wilson Health’s emergency room last saw a patient suffering from a heart attack, but Dr. John Hodgson is confident it’s not because heart disease has disappeared.
“It’s pretty clear it can’t be because the disease went away,” the Wilson Health cardiologist said. “It seems people aren’t seeking medical attention.”
Hodgson and Dr. Lou Vadlamani opened Wilson Health Cardiology in January. Because the practice hasn’t been open very long, the doctors don’t have much data on how many patients typically would seek medical attention for a heart attack at a given time.
But they’re certain the recent lack of patients is abnormal, and reports from other hospitals appear to back up their suspicions. Worldwide, studies have suggested the number of people seeking medical attention for heart attacks has dropped about 40 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the United States saw 21.7 percent to 38.2 percent more deaths than normal each week in April. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 can explain some, but not all, of the increased mortality.
“There must be people dying because of other things than COVID because they’re just not seeking medical care,” Hodgson said.
The prevailing conclusion is people are avoiding hospitals because of COVID-19 concerns. Hodgson and other doctors said it’s misguided for people to delay medical care, though, especially with something as serious as a heart attack.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to data from the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department, 36.8 percent of deaths in Shelby County during the past decade were attributed to cardiovascular disease, which includes conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and hypertension.
Quick action greatly increases the chance of surviving a heart attack. Hodgson advised people to call 911 and get to the emergency room as soon as possible when they have signs of a heart attack.
“People are waiting until they actually pass out or die before somebody calls EMS,” Hodgson said. “They shouldn’t do that. They should call early.”
Common warning signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort and shortness of breath. Cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness and pain in other areas of the upper body including arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach also can signal heart problems.
“Symptoms in their chest or up in to their arm or their jaw that are unprovoked, unusual, they should really get them checked out,” Hodgson said. “If they get something like that and it lasts for more than five to 10 minutes, then they should really get checked out. They should call 911 and get to the emergency room.”
For more information, visit www.wilsonhealth.org or call 937-494-5988.
Note: On May 5, the Sidney Daily News published an article in which Wilson Health cardiologist Dr. Lou Vadlamani described a 42-year-old man as having a heart attack in late April.
Dr. John Hodgson said that patient was admitted to the hospital and received two stents to address a non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (non-STEMI), which isn’t as serious as a ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI).
“During COVID we have still done a rare cath for persons with chest pains but have not been seeing the acute heart attacks,” Hodgson said.