Home LIFESTYLE Cleveland Clinic study finds Americans avoiding heart care, other checkups during pandemic

Cleveland Clinic study finds Americans avoiding heart care, other checkups during pandemic

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Betty Lin-Fisher
Akron Beacon Journal

A Cleveland Clinic survey finds that just 52% of Americans reached out to a doctor or sought medical care after experiencing a concerning health issue during the COVID-19 outbreak. When it comes to patients with heart disease, that number increased to 63%.

Another Cleveland Clinic study, led by an Akron General cardiologist last spring, discovered an increase in “broken heart syndrome,” or stress cardiomyopathy, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the newest survey, many turned to the internet or friends and family instead of a health care provider for informal medical guidance, even though 32% of Americans – and 53% of heart disease patients – reported feeling at least one troubling symptom like increased blood pressure, dizziness, shortness of breath or increased blood sugar levels during the pandemic .

The survey also found that concerns over contracting the virus are preventing people – especially heart disease patients – from seeing the doctor. Around 85% of Americans say they are concerned about contracting COVID-19 when seeking treatment for health issues at a doctor’s office.

Another finding: One in three heart disease patients have put off taking their heart medications during COVID-19, with the top reason being that they are worried about going to the doctor during the pandemic.

“The concerning trend we saw in this year’s survey is that the very people who should not be avoiding the doctor during a pandemic are doing just that,” said Dr. Samir Kapadia, chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. “Ignoring symptoms of heart disease or not maintaining regular health checks like blood pressure or cholesterol screenings can lead to serious health consequences, especially if you have pre-existing conditions. Hospitals, including Cleveland Clinic, are taking every precaution to keep patients safe while at the doctor’s office.”

The survey found that half of Americans (52%) and even more heart disease patients (65%) have put off health screenings or check-ups because of the pandemic. The most common appointments being put off include dental screenings, annual physicals, and blood pressure and cholesterol checks.

Weight gain and stress also rose to the top of the survey as a result of the pandemic, as 42% of Americans overall and about half (47%) of heart disease patients have gained weight during the pandemic. Among Americans who gained weight, 25% gained more than 20 pounds. Three-quarters (76%) of Americans report feeling more stressed because of COVID-19 – yet only about half (55%) know that stress can have a substantial impact on their heart health.

Additional survey findings show that many Americans have misconceptions about how COVID-19 impacts heart health:

61% of Americans are unaware that heart disease puts you more at risk for contracting a severe case of COVID-19 and 69% are unaware that hypertension adds increased risk as well. 33% of Americans incorrectly believe you’re only at risk of long-term heart health effects from COVID-19 if you already have a pre-existing heart condition. 25% incorrectly believe COVID-19 only affects your lungs, not your heart.

Not all of the survey results were negative. Some Americans have adopted new healthy habits during COVID-19, including taking vitamins or supplements (35%), exercising more (32%) and eating a healthier diet (30%).

The survey was conducted as part of Cleveland Clinic Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute’s “Love your Heart” consumer education campaign in celebration of American Heart Month.

For more information, go to: clevelandclinic.org/loveyourheart

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland Clinic study finds Americans avoiding heart care, other checkups during pandemic

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