Call 911 immediately if you think you are having a heart attack or stroke
As hospitals step up and respond to the influx of COVID-19 patients amid a pandemic, a dangerous trend has emerged: Fewer patients are seeking treatment for heart attack and stroke symptoms. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that at each of nine large U.S. hospitals, the number of heart attack patients had dropped significantly.
People may be ignoring symptoms or, in the case of heart attack, mistaking them for COVID-19 symptoms (such as difficulty breathing). People may resist going to an emergency room for fear of catching or spreading COVID-19. But hospitals have safety measures in place to keep the risk low. Getting care for a heart attack or stroke is critical, and speed matters. Receiving treatment for a heart attack or stroke in the first 60 minutes is key. The faster you can get help, the better off you’ll be. Speed of care can be the difference between life or death, or the difference between making a full recovery or having lasting limitations.
Call 911 immediately if you think you or a loved one is having a stroke or heart attack. Emergency responders can provide care from the moment they arrive, and they alert the heart attack or stroke team at the hospital to prepare for your arrival. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.
Symptoms of a heart attack
- Uncomfortable pressure or squeezing in the center of the chest that goes away and comes back, or continues more than a few minutes
- Pain that spreads to one or both arms
- Pain or discomfort in the back, jaw, neck or stomach accompanied by pressure in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat, nausea or vomiting, combined with any of the above symptoms
If You Believe You Are Having a Heart Attack, Do Not Wait to Get Help
Call 911 or have someone take you to the nearest hospital emergency room. After calling 911, you can:
- Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed by your doctor.
- Take aspirin, but only if prescribed by your doctor. Aspirin can interact with other medications and should be taken only when advised by a medical professional.
Symptoms of stroke — BE FAST*
- Balance — loss of balance, coordination or dizziness
- Eyes — having trouble seeing or change in vision in one or both eyes
- Face — uneven smile or face looks uneven, droopy or is numb
- Arms — one arm drops when raising both arms; numbness or weakness in one arm
- Speech — trouble speaking; slurred or difficult speech
- Time — Note the time when symptoms start: Time lost equals brain lost.
*Adapted from Intermountain Healthcare. BE FAST was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. Copyright 2011, Intermountain Healthcare.
Some of these symptoms are similar to coronavirus infection (such as difficulty breathing). Look for the combination of symptoms and what it might be telling you.
Call your doctor if you have a current heart condition and think you may need a visit. In addition to an in person office visit, you may have the option of seeing your provider via a telehealth appointment or talk on the phone.