As the mercury continues to plunge in the bone-chilling winter, hospitals in Delhi-NCR are reporting a contrasting scenario. In cases of heart-related problems, the rapid-dipping temperature and post-COVID trauma have contributed to an increase.
Compared to last season, hospitals are seeing at least a 50 per cent spike in such incidents. Cases, including heart attacks and strokes, have risen dramatically, doctors have said.
Medanta Hospital in Gurugram said that, since the beginning of December, patients with heart problems have seen a 50 percent increase.
Aakash Healthcare in Delhi said that the average number of patients with heart problems in the hospital has risen over the last two months. Since November, it has now received an average of 500 patients, which was about 300 patients during winters in previous years.
In the past 3 weeks, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital has also experienced a rise in cases of heart attacks and angina.
Doctors said that the main contributors behind the recorded spike in cardiac problems among the public are exceptionally low temperatures and post-COVID complications.
“Frigid temperatures constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure, causing a heart attack or stroke. In addition, Covid-19 also plays a major role as it affects the circulatory system of the body. If you contract a virus, you are at greater risk of getting a heart attack or stroke. COVID makes the blood thicker and thus blocks the arteries,” explained Dr. Praveen Chandra, Chairman of Interventional Cardiology at Medanta.
Dr. Anil Saxena, Director, Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Delhi, said that the possibility of an increase in heart-related cases is a normal phenomenon in the winters. However, this year, the problem is further exacerbated by Covid-19.
“Many patients with COVID infection are getting complications due to inflammation in the arteries and heart muscle itself. This may complicate matters for heart patients,” he added.
Dr. Ashish Agarwal, Head of the Department of Cardiology at Aakash, said that COVID-19 significantly affected the hearts of its patients, particularly those with pre-existing heart conditions or other comorbidities.
“Having an incurable viral infection like COVID-19 during winters can increase the risk of heart failure or heart attack. This is because blood vessels in the body become more constricted due to exposure to extremely cold temperatures in winters that can restrict blood flow to the body and to the heart,” he said.
Research published in JAMA Cardiology Medical Journal claimed that 78 percent of patients recovering from Covid had cardiac abnormalities while 60 percent had ‘ongoing myocardial inflammation.’ Higher levels of Troponins, a blood enzyme that suggests heart damage, were also found among the subjects studied.
Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, meanwhile, said that numbers are also rising because patients with existing heart problems, who have been avoiding daily check-ups in the midst of the pandemic, are now suffering from aggrieved conditions.
“While the dip in temperature is the major cause here, the pandemic has made this situation even grimmer. The patients with existing heart ailments who have been delaying regular check-ups are the worst-hit. They are turning in with aggravated condition of their disease,” said Dr. Mukesh Goel, Senior Consultant, Cardio-Thoracic Surgery at the hospital.
Doctors also recommended that people with heart disease and those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past few months need to stay alert and take special precautions during winters to avoid any fatal heart disease.
“It is important to note that many patients with COVID infection have minimal symptoms, but there may still be sudden and severe complications. Therefore, any symptoms of heart disease must be particularly vigilant. Any chest discomfort or sudden difficulty in breathing should not be neglected. Whenever such symptoms occur, medical care should be sought. Prompt treatment of heart disease can be minimal,” Dr. Saxena cautioned.
“Patients should undergo regular screening tests to check their heart health. Besides, the standard of care practices should be applied, such as avoiding fried food and alcohol, layering of warm clothes, and regular exercise,” Dr. Agarwal advised.
“To check their heart health, patients should undergo routine screening tests. In addition, traditional care measures such as avoiding fried food and alcohol, layering of warm clothing, and daily exercise should be enforced,” Dr. Agarwal advised.