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Know and respond to common stroke and heart attack symptoms

February 12, 2021 | Healthy You | Chronic Conditions | Wellness

Healthcare worker listens to a woman's heart

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke in the days of COVID-19 have never been more important.

As more becomes known about the effect of COVID-19 on our health, damage to the heart and vascular system top the list of concerns of medical professionals for patients of all ages.

COVID-19 sometimes causes misery and a range of symptoms. Sometimes it goes undetected. All the while it might be causing hidden problems in the body such as inflammation that can show up later.  This inflammation can occur in various tissues throughout the body including the heart and circulatory system. This could lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

How do I know if I am having a stroke?

Knowing the signs and symptoms is the first step.  If you suspect someone is having a stroke remember to BE FAST. 

  • B-balance­—has the person suddenly lost their balance?
  • E-eyes—is there a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes?
  • F-face—does the face look uneven or droop?
  • A-arms—ask them to raise both arms.  Does one arm drift down?
  • S-Speech—ask them to repeat a phrase.  Does their speech sound strange? 
  • T-Time—Call 9-1-1 now! Every second brain cells die during a stroke.

How do I know if I am having a heart attack?

Some symptoms of a heart attack feel the same for men and women. Some feel different.

For example, men and women may both feel pain in the chest, shortness of breath and discomfort or tingling in their arms, back, neck, shoulder or jaw. By contrast, the following symptoms have also been reported by women:

  • Uncommon tiredness.
  • Sudden dizziness.
  • Heartburn-like feeling.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Cold sweats.

The reference chart below may help you determine if you or a loved one could be experiencing a stroke or heart attack. If so, please don't wait. Call 9-1-1.


infographic of common signs of stroke and heart attack

With both heart attacks and stroke, the longer it takes to identify and treat, the more potential tissue damage can occur.  Nationwide, healthcare providers are seeing a decrease in patients seeking care at hospitals for severe non-COVID-19 illnesses like strokes and heart attacks. Delaying necessary medical care can be detrimental to your health, especially when it comes to strokes.

The good news is that PeaceHealth has enhanced safety measures in place so that those seeking essential care for stroke and other emergencies are protected.

All COVID-19 patients and those presenting with COVID-19 symptoms receive care in a separate area of the clinic or hospital and we are taking every precaution to keep our caregivers, providers and patients safe, in line with state and federal guidelines. 

The quicker medical professionals can get life-saving treatments to people who are having a heart attack or stroke the better. 

What does all of this mean for your health today?

If you know—or believe--you have had COVID-19, your heart and circulatory system may need extra care and attention. 

Besides talking with your primary care provider or your cardiologist, the following are some recommendations by healthcare professionals:

  • Cook heart-healthy meals at home Need ideas? Look here
  • Exercise regularly. Find your favorite way to move--even a simple walk can help.
  • If you have spent the majority of time inside your home since the pandemic, consider starting an at-home health routine. 
  • Get into a healthy sleep routine.  Sleep gives your body the chance to naturally work at restoring and repairing imbalances.  
  • If you smoke or consume alcohol, cut back or quit altogether.  

What else can you do?

Become a healthy influencer. Encourage your family members and friends to adopt a healthy lifestyle and create a wellness action plan along with you. 

Finally, do your best to stay COVID-19-free by wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands often, avoiding large gatherings and, when you are eligible, getting vaccinated.

What are the benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

For anyone with existing heart conditions or risk factors, it’s extremely important to keep the body free from the ravaging effects of the virus.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that the benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh the known and potential risk of contracting COVID-19.  Additionally, the vaccine will provide immunity against the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. 

Stay up-to-date on your eligibility to receive the vaccine from your local county health department by checking out PeaceHealth’s vaccine information community web pages