Don’t ignore signs of stroke or heart attack due to COVID-19 crisis

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Hackensack University Medical Center is cautioning patients not to ignore symptoms of a stroke or heart attack due to fear of contracting COVID-19.

Many hospitals across the country have noticed an increase of people ignoring life-threatening symptoms. They are choosing to stay home, instead of seeking care at an emergency department.

When they do arrive at the hospital, the patient has lost critical time to receive life-saving treatments, the hospital said in a statement.

This is especially true for people experiencing a heart attack or stroke, the hospital said, citing a study out of Seattle that showed emergency admissions fell between 10 and 20 percent at six large hospitals in February and March.

“Heart attack symptoms should never be ignored,” said Joseph Parrillo, M.D, Cardiologist and Chairman of the Heart and Vascular Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“Heart muscle dies when the blood flow is restricted for too long. In the event that the heart attack puts you into cardiac arrest, there’s a small window of time that medical professionals can get your heart beating again.”

“Likewise, when it comes to treating a stroke, every minute matters.

We often say time is brain as it’s critical to seek care immediately because the longer your brain is without oxygen, the higher your chances for disability or death when experiencing a stroke,” said Martin Gizzi, M.D, Neurologist and Director of the Cerebrovascular Diseases Program at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“If someone is having a major stroke and it is caught in time, we can provide treatment that can recover function almost immediately but if you wait too long, those deficits become permanent.”

According to the hospital, following are emergent warning signs that should never be ignored:


Balance issues

Vision problems

Facial drooping

Arm weakness

Speech difficulty

Heart attack

Chest discomfort – pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body like the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach

Shortness of breath

Other signs including cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness