Since March, 911 calls for medical emergencies have dropped by more than 26%.
At the same time, emergency calls to homes where someone has died have doubled, according a new study from the University at Buffalo/State University of New York.
What’s going on?
People are afraid to call an ambulance. They worry they will catch the coronavirus if they go to the hospital, researchers say. As a result, more people are dying at home of heart attacks.
They are the invisible victims of the pandemic.
Dr. E. Brooke Lerner is the study’s co-author. She said the doubling of deaths and cardiac arrests during the last few months “demonstrates that people who need emergency health care may be delaying care such that their lives are actually in jeopardy.
“When people are making fewer 911 calls but those calls are about far more severe emergencies, it means that people with urgent conditions are likely not getting the emergency care they need in a timely way.”
A study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology backs up the findings. It concluded that hospital admissions for a particularly serious type of heart attack known as ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) dropped 38% after March 1.
Don’t Become an Invisible Victim of Coronavirus
Dr. Phillip L. Coule is chief medical officer at Georgia’s Augusta University Health System. Non-coronavirus admissions in his hospital are down by about 40%.
Dr. Coule warns that it may cost you your life if you put off calling for help when you may be having a heart attack. “The risks posed by ignoring heart attack and strokes are far greater than the risks posed by COVID-19 and seeking health care,” he said.
Heart attack victims who get prompt medical treatment have a survival rate as high as 90%. But the more time that passes without treatment, the greater the damage to the heart muscle. And the greater the chances of death.
Many of us are clueless about what it feels like to have a heart attack. And this lack of knowledge can be deadly.
The five most common symptoms of a heart attack are:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain or discomfort.
- Feeling lightheaded, weak, or faint.
- Pain or discomfort in the shoulders or arms.
- Jaw, neck, or back pain.
These 3 Things Give You a Fighting Chance to Survive a Heart Attack
Most heart attack deaths occur within the first hour. If you can make it to the hospital alive, you have a good chance of survival. To increase your odds of arriving alive, do these three things…
- Chew one aspirin (or four baby aspirin). This will thin your blood and lessen the impact of the heart attack. Keep aspirin at home, work, and in your gym bag.
- If other people are nearby, alert them that you may be having a heart attack. If you’re in a public place, a doctor may be nearby. If you lose consciousness, someone nearby may be able to perform CPR. If you’re driving, stop the car and call 911. If you’re on an airplane, notify a flight attendant.
- Minimize activity. Sit down and rest as best you can. Exertion strains the heart further. It’s better to lie in a half-sitting position with your head and chest slightly elevated and supported. Your knees should be bent. Lying flat can make it more difficult to breathe. 
You should of course take precautions against the coronavirus. But those precautions should not include avoiding the hospital when you need it most.
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