Can COVID-19 cause heart attack deaths?
In a few cases, yes. But many, many more deaths are caused by the fear of the coronavirus.
“Nearly everyone dying of COVID-19 has concurrent health problems,” writes Dr. Joel Zinberg, associate clinical professor of surgery at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York. Hypertension, heart disease, respiratory diseases, and diabetes are the most common. Their presence and interaction, Dr. Zinberg adds, are “what sometimes changes COVID-19 from a relatively benign disease into a killer.”
But these conditions don’t need a coronavirus to be fatal.
When VCU and Yale researchers analyzed the causes of over 87,000 excess deaths during March and April, they found that some 30,450 of those deaths were not from COVID-19.
In the five states with the most COVID-19 deaths (Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania), deaths from diabetes were up 96%, from heart diseases up 89%, from Alzheimer disease up 64%, and from cerebrovascular diseases (e.g., strokes) up 35%. The report’s lead author, Dr. Steven Woolf of the VCU School of Medicine, characterizes these deaths as “indirect mortality,” resulting not from the pandemic itself, but from people’s response to it.
As VCU Health System’s Dr. Peter Buckley puts it, “The findings from our VCU researchers’ study confirm an alarming trend across the US, where community members experiencing a medical emergency are staying home – a decision that can have long-term, and sometimes fatal, consequences.”
So if you have a cardiovascular condition, make sure you know the warning signs for a stroke (they’re different for men and women) or a heart attack. If you have diabetes, learn the warning signs for a diabetes attack. And if you see any of these signs, call 911 and get to an emergency room right away.
Life is short. Please don’t let fear of COVID-19 make it any shorter.
If you have any questions about coping with the Coronavirus outbreak, or your retirement years in general, please feel free to call or email us. Just as we always have, we’ll be happy to give you honest, objective answers.