There has also been an indirect effect of COVID-19 on heart health. “We didn’t see heart attack patients coming in at the beginning, and that’s because they stayed home,” says Dr. Andersen. The number of people dying at home of heart attacks rose significantly, possibly because they believed going to the hospital for treatment would expose them to the coronavirus. The FDNY reported that during the first week of April 2020 in New York City, there was a 400% increase in out-of-hospital cardiac deaths compared with April 2019, Dr. Andersen points out. “And people who did come to the hospital with heart attack symptoms had worse survival because they often waited longer before seeking help,” she adds.
Recent studies from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology also showed that death from heart disease in the U.S. increased during the COVID-19 pandemic over the prior year, while globally COVID-19 was associated with significant disruptions in cardiovascular disease testing.
Dr. Andersen says it remains important to contact your doctor if you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath upon exertion that feels new or different, chest pain, heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat, or lightheadedness or dizzy spells.