Heart attack symptoms: What to do if you experience symptoms amid coronavirus outbreak

Heart attacks happen when there’s a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of the heart muscle. It is important to act on the warning signs as soon they appear because a quick treatment response is required to reduce the amount of permanent damage to your heart and could save your life. The problem is, people that are alerted to having a heart attack may be less inclined to seek help amid the current coronavirus outbreak.


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There are two reasons why people may be deterred to seek help during the current viral outbreak.

The first is because certain symptoms linked to the coronavirus could be confused with those associated with having a heart attack.

For example, symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, feeling sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath, all of which are symptoms that have been reported in coronavirus patients.

A key part of the government’s social distancing strategy is to urge all people experiencing mild symptoms to stay at home for seven days.

As a result, if you experience the warning signs associated with having a heart attack, you may wrongly assume they are mild symptoms associated with the coronavirus.

This could prompt them to self-isolate instead of acting on their heart attack symptoms, a decision that could have devastating consequences.

The second factor is an undue concern for an already overstretched healthcare system.

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As reports come out about how the NHS is buckling under the weight of coronavirus cases, you may feel a misplaced sense of civic duty to unburden the healthcare system.

Although well-meaning, this too could have catastrophic consequences on your health.

According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), some recent evidence from Italy suggests that people are not seeking help for heart attack symptoms, or waiting longer to seek help, which has resulted in more of them ending up in intensive care or suffering long-term heart damage.

What should I do if I experience heart attack symptoms?

The BHF says: “Despite the pressure that the NHS is under, you should always dial 999 immediately if your chest pain is sudden, spreads to your arms, back, neck or jaw, feels heavy or tight, and lasts more than 15 minutes, or if you become short of breath or start to feel sick.”


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While you await the paramedics, you should implement these two steps:

  • Sit down and stay calm
  • Take a 300mg aspirin if you have one within reach

Does having an existing heart condition raise my risk of catching coronavirus?

According to the BHF, having a heart and circulatory condition probably doesn’t make you any more likely to catch coronavirus than anyone else.

“But if you have a heart condition it may mean that you could get more ill if you catch it, which is why it’s really important to protect yourself,” explains the health body.

Anyone with a heart condition is considered high risk of more severe complications of COVD- 19 coronavirus.

From what is understood so far, at risk conditions include:

  • Coronary heart disease, such as a past heart attack, stent, or bypass surgery (at any time)
  • Over 70 years old
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Lung disease, including asthma
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Stroke
  • Vascular dementia or small vessel disease in the brain
  • Any long-term condition that means you get the flu jab every year.

According to the NHS, if you’re at high risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus, there are extra things you should do to avoid catching it.

These include:

  1. Not leaving your home – you should not go out to do shopping, visit friends or family, or attend any gatherings
  2. Avoiding close contact with other people in your home as much as possible

If you’re at high risk, you will be contacted by the NHS by Sunday March 29, 2020.

Do not contact your GP or healthcare team at this stage – wait to be contacted.

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