American Heart Association: 911 calls for strokes, heart attacks plummet during COVID-19 crisis

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LITTLETON, Colo. (KDVR) — Across the country, the number of 911 calls for strokes and heart attacks has plummeted between 25 and 35 percent, according to the American Heart Association.

Doctors say patients are afraid to go to the hospital because they fear they will get the coronavirus, but that could have life-threatening consequences.

“We are scared about that. We think that people are not getting the care that they need,” said Dr. Ira Dauber, a cardiologist at Littleton Adventist Hospital.

Dauber says COVID-phobia is keeping patients away.

“It’s understandable to be concerned,” he said. “However, a possible heart attack far outweighs the potential of COVID exposure at the hospital.” 

Hospitals are following strict safety protocols, so he says patients should not hesitate to seek help.

“If you don’t get care immediately, your risk of dying is significant,” Dauber said. 

There are similar concerns if you think you or a loved one is having a stroke.

“Time is of the essence when we are talking about stroke,” said Dr. Mark Murray, the Director of Neurological Sciences for Centura Health.

He says doctors are seeing what happens when a stroke patient waits to come in.

“We are seeing the person coming in dragging their leg, and you ask them when it happened, and they tell you eight days ago,” Murray said.

Unfortunately, many stroke treatments and medications need to be given within a certain number of hours, or the person could be left with a permanent disability.

“Get them in as soon as possible, as soon as things happen,” Murray said. 

The American Heart Association is trying to get the word out: if you have symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately.

Symptoms of a heart attack include chest discomfort, discomfort in the upper body or shortness of breath.

Symptoms of a stroke include face drooping, arm weakness or speech difficulties.

The association says while COVID-19 is a very serious health threat, heart disease and stroke are still the top two killers worldwide.

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