Cardiovascular deaths jumped in the United States during the first months of the pandemic, according to new findings published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
“Hospital visits for heart attacks and other cardiac conditions declined markedly during the pandemic, fueling physicians’ concerns that people with acute conditions may be staying at home due to fear of exposure to COVID-19,” lead author Rishi K. Wadhera, MD, MPP, MPhil, a cardiologist and researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a statement. “Our research raises concern that the avoidance of hospitals, deferral of semi-elective procedures and care, and substantial strain imposed on hospitals during the early phase of the pandemic may have had an indirect toll on patients with cardiovascular disease.”
The researchers examined patient data from the weeks immediately preceding the pandemic—Jan. 1 to March 17, 2020—and from March 18 to June 2, 2020. Deaths from ischemic heart disease increased by 11%, the team found, and deaths from hypertensive diseases increased by 17%. The shift was the most noticeable in areas hit the hardest by COVID-19.
“Overall, our data highlight the urgent need to improve public health messaging and rapidly expand health care system resources to ensure that patients with emergent conditions seek and receive medical care—particularly in regions currently experiencing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases,” Wadhera added.