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May 29, 2020

SCAI Survey Finds That Americans Are Avoiding Treatment for Heart Attack and Stroke Because of COVID-19 Risk

May 29, 2020—The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) announced that findings from a newly released national survey confirm a growing concern among doctors and hospitals that people are more afraid of contracting COVID-19 by going to the hospital than seeking care for serious medical emergencies like heart attack or stroke.

The nationally representative study, which was conducted by SCAI with marketing agency Definition 6, found that > 50% of Americans are more afraid of contracting COVID-19 than experiencing a heart attack, and an alarming rate of people are avoiding care for medical emergencies because of it. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans each year, responsible for one in four deaths, noted SCAI.

Key highlights from the survey include the following:

  • As states start to open up, 36% of Americans consider going to the hospital to be one of the riskiest behaviors to take part in, compared with going to a hair salon (27%) or going to the beach (16%).
  • The percentage of respondents who think they are either somewhat likely or very likely to acquire COVID-19 in a hospital is 61%.
  • Half of respondents are more afraid of contracting COVID-19 than experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
  • Approximately 60% of respondents are more afraid of a family member or loved contracting COVID-19 than experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
  • When respondents were asked if they were more afraid of contracting COVID-19, experiencing a heart attack, or experiencing a stroke, twice as many people over the age of 60 years responded that they were more afraid of contracting COVID-19 (52%) than they are of experiencing a heart attack (23%) or stroke (25%)

According to SCAI, these data come at a time when hospitals nationwide are seeing up to a 60% reduction in admissions for heart attacks, and according to the American College of Emergency Physicians, emergency room volumes are down by up to 50%, underscoring fears in the medical community of the dangerous, and potentially fatal, effects of COVID-19. These fears are also backed by a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which showed a 38% drop in patients being treated for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction.

To help combat these fears and reverse the trend that’s emerged since stay-at-home orders have been put in place, SCAI wants to educate and empower people that even in this COVID-19 environment, seconds still count when it comes to their heart health. In 2007, SCAI initiated the Seconds Count campaign to help Americans remember the signs of a heart attack or stroke and remind people that in the event of a cardiac emergency, seconds count when it comes to receiving life-saving care.

“The data that we are seeing from this survey is not just disturbing, it is a clear sign that Americans may be in for a dangerous third wave of complications, and even fatalities, from delaying cardiac care during the time of this pandemic,” commented SCAI President Cindy Grines, MD, in the press release. Dr. Grines, who is Chief Scientific Officer at Northside Cardiovascular Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, continued, “While there is still much we don’t know about COVID-19, we do know that when it comes to heart attacks or strokes, getting to the hospital quickly and receiving immediate care is the only safe course of action. Time to treatment helps ensure the best possible patient outcomes.”

Kirk N. Garratt, MD, SCAI Past President, added, “Cardiovascular disease is not hiding out in self-isolation, waiting until it’s safe to strike. Now more than ever, we need to make sure people at risk, and their loved ones, know the signs of a heart attack or stroke and understand the need to get to the hospital quickly. Fear of COVID-19 can also be fatal. Delaying care results in more serious heart damage and even death. Our hospitals are ready to give the right cardiac care—safely.” Dr. Garratt is Medical Director, Center for Heart & Vascular Health, Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Delaware.

SCAI noted that hospitals have instituted processes and safety measures to keep these patients separate from COVID-19 patients, including checking temperatures, requiring masks, limiting the number of visitors, and practicing social distancing in waiting rooms, exam rooms, and emergency rooms.

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