COVID-19 Guide

Your heart can’t wait, even during a pandemic

Learn how to spot a cardiac event and when to call 911

As fears about the coronavirus pandemic keep many people away from hospitals, healthcare providers are noticing an unsettling absence of stroke and heart attack patients in their emergency rooms. The pandemic has not suddenly reduced the incidence of these cardiac events, so it’s likely that people experiencing them are avoiding hospitals out of fear that they will get sick.

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) released a statement in April encouraging people who experience symptoms of stroke or heart attack to call 911. “From dispatchers to first responders, the emergency response system is trained to help you safely and quickly, even during a pandemic,” the ACC said in its statement. “Although COVID-19 is certainly our most immediate threat, we must remember the ever-lurking dangers of heart disease and stroke—which, year in and year out, are the top two killers worldwide. Approximately every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. will have a heart attack and someone else will have a stroke.”

Protect yourself and your loved ones by knowing the signs of a stroke and heart attack.

Signs of a Heart Attack

Clues that a person may be having a heart attack include chest discomfort; discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath; breaking out in a cold sweat; nausea; or lightheadedness. Women are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

If you or someone else experiences these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 immediately.

How to Spot a Stroke

Remember the acronym BE FAST when looking for symptoms of a stroke in yourself or others. If these symptoms are sudden and out of the ordinary, they could be signs of a stroke. Additional symptoms can include sudden numbness, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion; sudden trouble seeing; sudden difficulty walking; or sudden severe headache.