(WYTV) – New data projections are showing COVID-19 could surpass heart disease as the number-one cause of death by March.
Projections from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation show COVID-19 could be the number-one cause of death in the United States if restrictions are eased. That’s staggering news because heart disease has been the most common reason Americans die for over 90 years.
These projections for COVID-19 are for March 1, 2021.
If everything continues like it is now, there will likely be 500,000 total deaths in the U.S. by what health experts are calling the one-year anniversary of the pandemic. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations said the number of deaths could be closer to 666,000 if restrictions are loosened.
In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on average, 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year.
In Ohio, almost 30,000 people died from heart disease in 2018. In Pennsylvania, over 32,000 people died from heart-related issues that same year.
Cardiologists at Trumbull Regional said it’s still important to pay close attention to heart disease during the pandemic.
“Heart attacks and other heart-related problems tend to have a lot of long-term effects,” Dr. Shyam Bhakta said. “For instance, if you have a heart attack today, even if you survive it, if you present late and have complications, it does increase your risk of death a month or two or even six months down the road, as well as developing life-threatening conditions, such as congestive heart failure.”
He said a lot of patients are scared to come to the hospital because of the virus even after having symptoms of heart disease. Doctors say this is a bad idea, given the dangers of not checking in on heart issues.
“There are always some concerns by patients that coming to the hospital may be more harmful than staying home and avoiding the symptoms, avoiding medical attention. So we are seeing an uptick in patients presenting late with heart attack, which can lead to complications, including fatal ones,” Bhakta said.
He stressed it’s more dangerous to ignore heart symptoms than to come to the hospital. He said COVID-19 patients are being separated from patients with other medical needs to keep people safe.
Bhakta said heart disease can be treated safely and effectively if caught early.
Here are some symptoms to watch for:
- Chest pain, which is the most common symptom. Bhakta said this pain could travel to the neck or shoulders as well.
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling sick to the stomach
Bhakta said there are some groups of people who may experience slightly different symptoms.
People over the age of 75 and those with diabetes often have atypical symptoms.
Women also tend to get treated for heart issues later than men because they have a higher pain tolerance.
Bhakta recommends getting checked out by a doctor if anything seems off.
He said there are things you can do to prevent heart disease or lessen its impact:
- Eat healthy
- Exercise and maintain a healthy body weight
- Avoid smoking