11 Jan COVID-19: Increase in Cardiovascular Deaths During Pandemic
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Rishi K. Wadhera, MD, MPP, MPhil
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Associate Program Director, Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: The direct toll of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the U.S. has been substantial, but concerns have also arisen about the indirect effects of the pandemic on higher-risk patients with chronic medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. Hospitalizations for acute cardiovascular conditions, including myocardial infarction, heart failure, and stroke precipitously declined during the early phase of the pandemic.
These patterns have raised concern that patients may be avoiding hospitals due to fear of contracting SARS-CoV-2, and that some have died from cardiovascular conditions without seeking medical care. In addition, there has been growing concern about the the effects of health-care system strain and the deferral of semi-elective procedures on patients with cardiovascular conditions.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: In this study, we used data from the National Center for Health Statistics to evaluate the rate of deaths due to cardiovascular causes after the onset of the pandemic in the U.S. We found nationwide increases in population-level deaths due to ischemic heart disease (relative increase, 11%) and hypertensive diseases (17%) after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with the same period in 2019. The rise in deaths was concentrated in areas most affected by COVID-19 this spring. New York State, New Jersey, Michigan and Illinois experienced increases in cardiac deaths, with New York City seeing the largest relative rise in deaths (139%) due to ischemic heart diseases. Massachusetts — an epicenter for COVID-19 during the spring — did not see similar increases in cardiac deaths during this time period.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: These findings suggest that the pandemic led to an increase in cardiovascular deaths that were not directly related to COVID-19. Our research raises concern that the avoidance of hospitals due to fear of exposure to the virus, deferral of semi-elective cardiovascular procedures and care, and the substantial strain imposed on hospitals during the early phase of the pandemic may have had an indirect toll on patients with cardiovascular disease. A proportion of deaths may have also been due to the cardiovascular complications of undiagnosed COVID-19.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: As COVID-19 cases surge in different regions of the US, policymakers should improve public health messaging to encourage patients with acute cardiovascular conditions to seek medical care and expand health systems’ resources.
Cardiovascular Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States
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