Survey finds many people with pre-existing heart conditions are experiencing worsening health as a result of the pandemic
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%.
According to the survey, many turned to the internet or friends and family for informal medical guidance, instead of a healthcare provider, even though 32% of Americans – and 53% of heart disease patients – reported feeling at least one troubling symptom during the pandemic like increased blood pressure, dizziness, shortness of breath or increased blood sugar levels.
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 alarming 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 risk and incidence of heart disease have not changed because there is a pandemic,” said John Bibawy, MD a cardiologist who specializes in electrophysiology and heart rhythm disorders at Cleveland Clinic’s Weston Hospital. “What we saw from the survey is that people are avoiding treatment, which is problematic because a delay in treatment could lead to advanced disease. Our facilities are safe and we are encouraging everyone to continue regular screenings and to see their cardiologist if they have any heart issues or concerns. We also support virtual visits for patients who have significant concerns so that care will not be suspended.”
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 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. Cleveland Clinic has been ranked the No. 1 hospital in the country for cardiology and cardiac surgery for 26 years in a row by US News & World Report.
About Cleveland Clinic Weston
Cleveland Clinic Weston, part of Cleveland Clinic’s Florida region, is a nonprofit, multi-specialty, academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. With locations in Weston, Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Parkland, West Palm Beach, Wellington, and Palm Beach Gardens, Cleveland Clinic Weston has more than 250 physicians with expertise in 55 specialties. The medical campus is fully integrated and includes diagnostic centers, outpatient surgery and a 24-hour emergency department located in the state-of-the-art hospital. Cleveland Clinic’s Florida region now includes Cleveland Clinic Indian River and Cleveland Clinic Martin Health and has hospitals and outpatient centers in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties. The Florida region is an integral part of Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where providing outstanding patient care is based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Physicians at Cleveland Clinic are experts in the treatment of complex conditions that are difficult to diagnose. For more information about Cleveland Clinic Florida, visit www.clevelandclinicflorida.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
For more information, go to: clevelandclinic.org/loveyourheart
Findings of an online survey conducted among a national sample consisting of 1,000 general population Americans, 18 years of age and older, living in the continental United States with an oversample of 250 Americans with a pre-existing heart condition, for a total of n=516 respondents with a pre-existing heart condition. A pre-existing heart condition included: atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and peripheral artery disease.
The total general population sample data was weighted to be nationally representative based on age, gender, ethnicity, region, urban vs. rural, household income and educational attainment census data. The online survey was conducted by Lucid and completed between November 14th and December 1st. The margin of error for the total Gen Pop sample at the 95% confidence level is +/- 3.1 percentage points.