Today (Monday June 15th, 2020) the Heart & Stroke Charity Croí, launches a national ‘patient-to-patient’ confidence building campaign aimed at saving lives and reducing disability by encouraging those with symptoms of heart or stroke emergency to seek medical help without delay. The #JustGo initiative reaffirms medical advice to always act quickly when it comes to symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. ‘Time is muscle’ – the longer you wait with a heart attack the more damage occurs to your heart muscle or in the case of a stroke, to your brain.
The campaign is in response to the fear of COVID-19, which is keeping almost half of people suffering from a heart attack away from hospitals, and now across the world, doctors are reporting that those who delay in seeking medical help are in a far worse condition when they finally arrive at hospital, and it’s often too late to benefit from the life-saving treatments that are normally available to them.
“It’s one of the unintended consequences of COVID-19 that people suffering heart attacks and strokes are delaying in seeking medical help, resulting in worse outcomes. Also, people living with known heart conditions who are experiencing new or worsening symptoms are delaying too long before calling their doctor or going to hospital,” says Neil Johnson, CEO, Croí.
National Clinical Societies and international organisations such as the World Heart Federation, World Stroke Organisation and the European Society of Cardiology are all united on the important message that ignoring cardiac symptoms or delaying treatment carries the risk of severe complications with long-term negative and potentially life threatening consequences.
Professor Jim Crowley, Consultant Cardiologist, Galway University Hospital and President of the Irish Cardiac Society, says, “In Ireland, there has been a large decrease in cardiac admissions to hospital (across all cardiac conditions), in some locations a decrease of as much as 80%, and there has been a significant decrease in hospital interventions both surgical and less invasive of up to 35% across hospitals. This is very worrying as we know cardiovascular disease has not gone away and the prospect of a surge of patients with advanced cardiac symptoms in the coming weeks and months as an indirect consequence of COVID-19 is concerning.”
Professor Bill McEvoy, Consultant Cardiologist, Galway University Hospital and Research & Medical Director of the National Institute for Prevention and Cardiovascular Health, confirms that he has been seeing patients who left it too late to come into hospital for treatment of a heart attack or stroke. “We have seen severe complications of heart attacks that we haven’t witnessed in decades, from back before the time since we have modern treatments for heart attack. We need to get the message out to patients, loud and clear, that our hospitals are safe and that patients without COVID-19 are being kept separate from patients admitted with COVID-19. We also need to reinforce the longstanding message to patients – act quickly if you have symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.”
Dr Joe Gallagher, ICGP Primary Care Lead for Integrated Care Programmes (Cardiovascular Disease) speaking as a GP says, “It is really important to look after your heart at this time and if you are worried about your heart health talk to your GP. Don’t delay in going to hospital if you experience symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.”
The #JustGo campaign message is simple and clear – If you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, – Don’t delay – Every minute counts. If you have chest pain or other heart attack symptoms – such as pain in the throat, neck, back, stomach or shoulders that lasts for more than 15 minutes – you must call an ambulance.
Equally, if you are living with an existing heart condition such as heart failure or heart valve disease and if you are experiencing new symptoms, or a worsening of symptoms, you should contact your doctor or go to a hospital as soon as possible. Similarly, for those diagnosed with Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) (a genetic condition where the cholesterol level is very high and needs medical treatment to lower it) or for those under the age of 55, having a family member living with FH or multiple family members with a history of heart disease or stroke – don’t ignore the symptoms of heart attack, act quickly.
The #JustGo Campaign hopes to reassure people that the risk of coronavirus infection in hospital has been minimised for patients being admitted with heart attacks or strokes. The campaign also reaffirms that the risk of dying from an untreated heart attack is 10 times higher than dying from COVID-19.
Croí says – If you are experiencing a heart or stroke emergency – this is NOT the time to ‘stay at home’ – when your heart says so, #JustGo
Learn more: www.croi.ie/justgo