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Covid-19 guidance may have reduced the risk of heart attack: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on December 04, 2020

People who stayed at home saw reduced exposure to triggers such as stress, intense physical activity, air pollution

A new study claimed that adherence to Covid-19 guidance may have reduced the risk of a heart attack.

Researchers carried out the study by analysing anonymised data collected from people’s mobile phones in Sweden to develop an aggregate picture of the activities undertaken by them amidst the pandemic. They also mapped it against attendances at the country's 29 emergency cardiac angiography units.

Their study revealed that the proportion of patients going to the hospital for emergency heart treatment dropped from an average of 63 patients a day in pre-Covid years to an average of 55 patients a day during the first wave of the pandemic — from 1 March to 5 May. At its lowest point, in the early part of April, the drop in patients was 38 per cent.

Chris Gale, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Leeds, one of the scientists involved in the study, said: “This was a statistical analysis so cause-and-effect cannot be directly determined, but it has identified a number of interesting associations.”

He added: “Although Sweden was not locked down, people aged 70 or more were urged to stay at home and that could have reduced exposure to some of the events that are known to trigger a heart attack such as stress, intense physical activity, air pollution and exposure to some viruses.”

The findings noted the following observations, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine:

A 10 per cent increase in activity relating to retail and recreation was associated with a 15 per cent increase in heart attack and angina cases —collectively known as an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) — seen at the angiography clinics.

A 10 per cent increase in activity around grocery and pharmacy was linked to a 14 per cent increase in ACS cases.

A 10 per cent increase in activity around the workplace was associated with a 12 per cent increase in ACS cases.

A 10 per cent increase in activity in the home category was linked to a 38 per cent decline in ACS cases.

The researchers say the decline in people attending hospital with a heart attack was seen in other countries, including the UK.

The researchers further said there is no evidence in Sweden that there were bed shortages, higher mortality from heart disease, or changes in quality of care in hospitals. These factors could have driven people not to seek emergency help.

They said: “Self-isolation, working from home, and less rigorous recreational activities may have decreased stress and exertion-induced acute cardiac syndrome in individuals at risk and can possibly explain the decline in the incidence of myocardial infarction (heart attack) as the association between psychological stress and physical exertion and incidence of myocardial infarction/ACS is well established.”

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Published on December 04, 2020
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