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Dr. Benny Panakkal




Heart Attacks during the COVID 19 days

During the current COVID 19 pandemic, it is noted that world over there is a drastic decrease in the number of patients attending hospital emergency rooms and marked decline in the number of heart attack patients being admitted to emergency care. This is not actually because people became healthier, but because many are avoiding visits to clinics and often ignores dangerous symptoms, especially concerning cardiac problems. A recent survey conducted in the United States revealed that people are more afraid of getting infected by COVID 19 than having a heart attack. 

Why it is important not to ignore symptoms that could indicate cardiac abnormalities? What could happen if you delay a visit to your clinic when you experience symptoms of a heart attack?

A heart attack or imyocardial infarction happens when an artery supplying blood to the heart muscle (myocardium) is suddenly blocked due to the formation of a blood clot. When the artery is suddenly blocked the part of the heart it supply starve for oxygen and nutrients; if beyond certain time this continues that area “ dies” or get infarcted. So in the case of heart attack “time is muscle”. If we delay longer more damage to the muscle results. Important fact is once the heart muscle is damaged it’s permanent and as more mucle is damaged the working of the heart becomes weaker. 

This is why It’s important to get treatment as early as possible in the event of a heart attack. If there’s doubt better go to the emergency care of the hospital. Earlier the better. The doctor will assess the situation and plan the treatment options either by clot dissolving medications or by doing an emergency angioplasty to open the blocked artery. 

Most of the deaths in the case of a heart attack happen during the first 24 hours. Sudden deaths from a heart attack is always due to cardiac arrest a deadly complication due to the electrical system generating the heart beats going wrong and heart stops beating or beats abnormally. This is why during the first 24 hours of a heart attack patients are monitored in a coronary care unit. If a cardiac arrest occurs it needs immediate attention and electrical Shocks delivered by an instrument called defibrillator to reset the heart beats. If several minutes pass without restoring heart beats and circulation, death follows. 

Second cause of death in a heart attack is due to cariogenic shock; when a large amount of heart muscle is damaged heart loses its ability to pump. This pump failure leads to low blood pressure and failure of circulation of blood in the body leading to multiple organ failure and death.

All these can be prevented by early and correct treatment making early medical attention important in the event of a heart attack.

What are the obvious symptoms and what are the hidden / indirect indications?

Most people equate heart attack to any kind of chest pain. It’s important to note that often the heart attack or myocardial infarction is felt as a “discomfort’ “,pressure, heavy weight in the chest, burning sensation or as a feeling of indigestion rather than as a normal pain! The discomfort may be in the centre of the chest, left side of the chest, right side of the chest, upper part of the abdomen, throat, lower jaw, both or either arms, the central area between the shoulder blades. 

The discomfort may radiate from the chest to throat, left or right arms. It may or may not be associated with sweating, vomiting or nausea making it sometimes difficult to distinguish from indigestion.

So if you’re at a higher risk of having a heart attack say above 45 years of age, have history of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or smokes, better to go and get checked at an emergency care unit if any of the symptoms persist .

Few more details to remember: heart attack will not cause momentary sharp pointed pains that last few seconds. It lasts minutes to hours. It usually is not a well localized pain one can locate with a finger.

However nowadays age is not a criterion of exclusion. We have seen people in their late twenties or early thirties present with heart attacks.  If in doubt do go and check!

Is visiting clinics safe during the pandemic and what precautions should one take?

Emergency treatment should be sought even in these days of pandemic. All hospitals have mechanisms and triages to segregate suspected COVID patients from other patients. All proper precautions are mandatory in the hospitals and in place under the Ministry of health guidelines and supervision. So it’s safe to go to hospital and get treatment if you feel you are in need. And always remember to observe social distancing and to wear a mask while in public places; observehand hygiene. Stay safe and healthy.  

Dr. Benny Panakkal


Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist

Badr Al Samaa Hospital, Ruwi

For more information and appointments please call 24799760 or visit:

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Dr. Benny Panakkal


Senior Consultant