MANILA - Heart doctors have encouraged patients to visit hospitals and get their necessary cardio tests and checkups as COVID-19 cases continued to drop and and situation in hospitals improved.
One doctor said that after a year into the pandemic, hospitals have now increased their care capacity to ensure that non-COVID patients can still receive medical care.
This includes stricter health protocols to ensure that patients would not get infected by COVID-19.
“Hindi na nakakatakot,” Philippine Heart Association (PHA) Communications Committee Chairman Dr. Luigi Segundo said.
“Nagdagdag tayo ng tao, protocols para pwede pa rin nating alagaan ang mga non- COVID na may emergency conditions such as heart attack and stroke,” said Dr. Eric Sison, ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI) committee board secretary and the chairman of the Philippine Society of Cardiac Catheterization and Interventions .
Heart physicians are also concerned about a drop of heart disease cases in hospital’s emergency rooms due to patients’ concern about contracting the deadly coronavirus.
“Nagkaroon ng global study ng European Society of Cardiology Society where they noted that may talagang nawawalang mga kaso ng heart attack, lalo na yung mga STEMIs, yung sinasabi nating pinakagrabeng kaso ng heart attack. So this is not a merely global study,” Adult Clinical and Interventional Cardiology Consultant Dr. John Daniel Ramos said.
Ramos also showed the number of cardiology procedures in Cagayan De Oro, where he practices, significantly dropped in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, but slightly increased this year.
“2020 nakita natin around that time, biglang bagsak ang kaso, halos wala kami— unusually— na nagiging kaso. But later on yung adaptation allowed us to attend to some cases. In 2021 eto ung nag ECQ… bumaba ng bahagya (heart disease cases) pero di naman naging zero kasi hospitals are adapting to the pandemic already,” he explained.
The doctors are underscoring the importance of patients receiving proper care. They are also noting that "time is of the essence” as heart diseases killed more people than COVID-19.
Ischaemic heart diseases remain the number one cause of death in the country, doctors noted, followed by cerebrovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes mellitus, based on January to June 2021 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
According to latest figures, ischaemic heart diseases caused 18.7 percent of deaths in the country in the first half of this year, while 10.2 percent were attributed to cerebrovascular diseases.
“Sa katotothanan kahit takot na takot sa COVID, yung mga namamatay sa atake sa puso, heart disease ay more than double or quadruple sa namamatay sa COVID. Talagang seryosong karamdaman na kailangan nating i-address despite the pandemic,” Sison said.
Ramos, on the other hand, recalled what happened to 5 of his patients who did not receive medical attention on time.
“I have at least 5 STEMI patients na delayed ang presentation, 4-5 days later on, but unfortunately all of these cases died,” he said.
To help educate the public particularly recognizing heart attacks, a free app called "Stemiconsult" is made available for both Android and Apple users.
The app also helps patients to determine where to get the needed treatment.
“Meron po siyang GPS base so kahit nasaan po kayo sa Pilipinas.. pwede niyo po hanapin na pwedeng magbigay ng appropriate treatment, like angioplasty. Andun po lahat pati number na pwede ninyong matawag,” said Sison.
Doctors are also talking to PhilHealth to come up with heartcare packages.
“Meron namang good news. PhilHealth recognizes heart attack is the leading cause of death. Kailangan ng treatment like angioplasty na mahal at di kayang bayaran ng ordinaryong Pilpino,” Sison said.
“We are working with them… kailangan paghandaan at pag aralan ng mabuti para seguruhin na ang package ay nararapat, angkop at kayang bayaran ng gobyerno.”
To keep one's heart healthy, the PHA had said one must eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, limit daily screen time to a maximum of two hours, and exercise for at least an hour daily.
They are also encouraging the public to avoid smoking and vaping, and to stay away from sugary drinks.
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