Heart Health Amid The COVID-19 Pandemic

CBSN Bay Area's Len Kiese talked to MarinHealth’s Dr. Ben Ancock about the increase in cardiovascular issues he says he’s seeing due to patients putting off care due to COVID-19.

Video Transcript

LEN KIESE: Doctors say it's important not to neglect your heart health, especially during the pandemic. Dr. Ben Ancock joins us now. He's with MarinHealth's cardiology division. And you say some patients are still delaying care due to COVID concerns, tell us what you've seen.

BEN ANCOCK: Well, it's interesting. Even though, is even though the pandemic is slowing down-- certainly in the Bay Area we've been very lucky-- there's still some reluctance to attend doctor's office, still reluctance to attend emergency rooms. And recently I've been seeing a few patients turning up who've had very large heart attacks. But in the two to three weeks preceding their actual presentation to the hospital. This makes treating them acutely very difficult, and they can end up with more problems going on if they don't attend the hospital when needed.

LEN KIESE: And you also say some patients are missing or canceling cardiovascular studies as well, how much of a problem has that been?

BEN ANCOCK: Well, what we're seeing right now is a very large backlog of studies because initially when the pandemic hit, there was very good reason. We had a lot of concern, there was a lot of concern about how bad this was going to be. And so people cancelled their follow-ups, they cancelled their studies. And what's interesting is we're now seeing these patients coming back into the system.

And one thing I want to get across is that we have so many great ways to take care of patients now. We really have been working on getting our virtual visits up and running, but also now health workers are vaccinated. We have excellent protocols in place for studies to keep social distancing and reducing people's risk of transmission of any virus. And so it's really important that we get on and treat these cardiac issues that have been sort of festering in the background for the last year.

LEN KIESE: So people should have some peace of mind if they're coming out. You've also seen an increase in CT coronary angiograms, tell us about those tests how important they are.

BEN ANCOCK: Well, they're a relatively modern technology that we've been doing a lot of in MarinHealth for a number of years now. And what's interesting is, during the pandemic people are concerned about exercise stress testing, and things like that, given the concern for possible having to wear a mask during the procedure, and possibly sort of spreading more of the virus around. So people have been worried about getting on treadmills which are an important part of our work.

The CT study is a different type of study where we can actually start to assess the heart arteries using a CT scanner to see whether there's any significant blockages. And we've seen a big increase in our studies over the last few months, and this has been really helpful for patients. But also reducing the risk of providers.

We've certainly had patients who come into the hospital with COVID-19 and are having damage to their heart-- it's been well-documented. And putting these patients into cardiac care [INAUDIBLE] that we traditionally may do, can expose the patient and staff to significant risks. So what we've been able to do is re-stratify them very safely using a CT scan which is much quicker, causing much less exposure to both patients and also the health care providers.

LEN KIESE: And lastly, what is your overall message to patients putting off this care due to COVID concerns?

BEN ANCOCK: Really, you know, if you have a cardiac problem and you've missed your appointment from last year and you kind of just had it in the back of your head, things are getting much safer, OK? We need you to come in for care. We have so many good options now with Virtual Health, with Telehealth. The hospitals are safe, they're open, and so are the clinics. And so there are a lot of different ways to get this done and really it's important that we start to get back on top of all our other cardiac issues that were previously [INAUDIBLE] And it's really important that you continue to take care of your heart.

LEN KIESE: All right. And a plea from the doctor himself. Dr. Ben Ancock, thank you so much for your time.