Following social distancing guidelines and other policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic may have helped some people lower their risk of having a heart attack, according to new research out of Sweden.
The findings, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, included data from March 1 to May 7, 2020. Location data was compared to information taken from the Swedish Coronary Angiography and Angioplasty Registry.
Researchers found that fewer patients went to the hospital for emergency heart treatment at times when people were staying closer to home. For example, emergency cardiac angiography units in Sweden were seeing an average of 63 patients per day in the years leading up to pandemic. After COVID-related policies were in place, however, that number dropped to an average of 55 patients per day.
“This was a statistical analysis so cause-and-effect cannot be directly determined, but it has identified a number of interesting associations,” co-author Chris Gale, PhD, a professor at the University of Leeds, said in a statement. “Although Sweden was not locked down, people aged 70 or more were urged to stay at home and that could have reduced exposure to some of the events that are known to trigger a heart attack such as stress, intense physical activity, air pollution and exposure to some viruses.”