A Cardiologist’s Heart-Saving Advice on When to Seek Emergency Care - Virtua Health, NJ

A Cardiologist's Advice on Heart-Saving Emergency Cardiac Care

By Randy Mintz, MD, Interventional Cardiologist—Virtua Interventional Cardiology 
James Newman, Assistant Vice President—Virtua Emergency Medical Services

In the past, doctors have found that patients don’t want to be a “bother,” and sometimes feel embarrassed about overreacting or experiencing a false alarm. This phenomenon has only intensified during the coronavirus pandemic. Given the natural anxieties caused by the pandemic, many people with critical health concerns are choosing to stay home instead of seeking help from their doctor or going to the emergency room.

We encourage you NOT to ignore your heart health or feel that you’re a bother if you need to talk to your doctor during this time. Here’s why.

Q: Why is it important to take swift action if you suspect you or someone in your household is having chest pain or experiencing a cardiac emergency?

A: If you suspect you or someone in your household is experiencing a heart attack or other cardiac emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately without hesitation. To prevent heart damage, it’s important to start care as soon as possible, so time is of the essence. Virtua Health emergency medical services come straight to your home. Our EMS team uses tools and technology that can quickly identify your cardiac symptoms so the right team and doctors are prepped and ready to care for you when you arrive.

The heart is a muscle. The longer a cardiac event lasts, the greater the strain and injury to the muscle. We want the best possible outcomes for our patients, and early action and intervention helps ensure that.

Q: Why is it important to seek care despite concerns about the coronavirus?

A: We understand people are hesitant about going to a hospital, but all Virtua facilities have enacted a number of safety measures to protect people with and without COVID-19. Undergoing a cardiac emergency at home without seeking medical attention could be a life-or-death decision.

Q: How are COVID-19 and cardiac symptoms similar? How are they different?

A: Cardiac events can take many different forms. Many people think of crushing chest pain, but patients present with many different symptoms. They may have shortness of breath, or pain in the neck, shoulder, or jaw. Some of these symptoms overlap with other lung conditions or COVID-19. While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly what you’re experiencing, should you feel any of these concerning symptoms, call an expert for help.

Q: What should people with known cardiac health issues be doing to stay heart-healthy while staying at home?

A: It’s tremendously important now and always to maintain your relationship with your primary care doctor and/or cardiologist. In addition to keeping up with your appointments, we suggest maintaining a heart-healthy diet and a reasonable exercise program. Please consult with your doctor before increasing your normal activity level. You also should continue to take your prescribed medication regularly.

Q: How is Virtua making cardiac rehab available for people to participate remotely?

A: Virtua is delivering supplies to its cardiac rehab patients, including scales, blood pressure monitors, activity trackers, and tablet devices. This allows them to continue their rehab while remaining safe at home. Tele-rehab also is a powerful tool for helping our patients maintain their progress and stay connected with their care team. 

Learn more about cardiac emergency warning signs

Updated May 20, 2020

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