TULSA, Okla. — During the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians are growing concerned that patients may be putting off seeking medical care.
"Patients are concerned their chest pain just might represent COVID," said Mark Blubaugh, MD, medical director of Tulsa ER & Hospital. "So, they might want to put it off for a couple days, you know. Maybe you wanted to see if they develop a fever or cough. When, in reality, that chest pain is actually, you know, heart attack."
Dr. Blugaugh warns heart attacks are serious. He said minutes count when blood flow is shut off to the heart.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, patients may also feel these symptoms:
- chest pain or tightness
- short of breath
- cold sweat
However, women often present with a less specific range of symptoms such as generalized fatigue, nausea or upset stomach. Doctors said diabetics are another group that may also have symptoms that are not typical. Some patients even head to the emergency room with what they think is a toothache.
"A lot of the time people come in, they complain of jaw pain or tooth pain and they think they might be having, you know, a tooth abscess or a tooth infection," Dr. Blubaugh said. "But if you are a high risk candidate, one of the things that should be screened for is always heart attack."
Coronavirus poses yet another risk because it can cause blood clots leading to stroke or heart attack. This may occur even in patients who have never been at risk for heart disease.
"Even if you don't have risk factors but you've had a recent diagnosis of COVID, and you're having those symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath, I would definitely recommend getting to the closest emergency room to be evaluated," Dr. Blubaugh concluded.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans. The CDC outlined the following high risk factors for a heart attack:
- age 40+
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- family history
- poor health
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