February is heart month



Each February there is a concentrated effort by the medical community to educate on the importance of heart health. Despite a crazy last few months, this February is no different. Heart information has been disseminated through all avenues of media with hopes that people will actively focus on any heart care needs.

The Blount Countian reached out to Dr. John Parks, a cardiologist at Ascension St. Vincent’s Blount, for some important issues that have been brought to the forefront since everyone has shifted much of their focus on the pandemic.

Dr. Parks acknowledged that research in the last few months has revealed that patients have neglected cardiac care. Some neglect has been due to being focused on the big picture of COVID, while others simply have fear of visiting a doctor’s office seeking care.

Regardless, the research indicates that there has been an increase in the number of people experiencing higher blood pressure numbers. This is of great concern because higher blood pressure issues can lead to much larger health problems such as a stroke or congestive heart failure. There has been an increase in the number of deaths due to heart attacks noted during this time. Dr. Parks conveyed during his interview that people who are having heart problems or symptoms of heart problems are delaying doctor visits much later than in previous years. Again, much of the delays are being reported as due to COVID fears.

In addition to the financial burden the pandemic has placed on many, Dr. Parks noted that a lot of people are not seeking care because they have had COVID and believe the symptoms they are experiencing – fast heart rate, shortness of breath, chest pains – are simply long term effects weeks after no longer having the virus.

Dr. Parks pointed out how important it is to have any of the symptoms checked out in case it is more than lasting effects of the virus. He emphasized that with the access to COVID vaccinations the medical community hopes patients will get back on track and not delay the much-needed care.

With the pandemic creating havoc in all areas of our lives, health care providers have been forced to use technology in the care of patients. Tele-health video calls have allowed patients to safely speak with their doctors without leaving their homes and having to drive to Birmingham or other cities and risk being around others who may be sick. It is a convenient way to quickly talk with doctors, as most have appointments available within just a couple of days.

When discussing the vaccine availability, doctors have had many patients reaching out to them to see if their heart is healthy enough for the vaccine. While that concern needs to be addressed individually, most patients are deemed healthy enough to take the vaccination. Dr. Parks also noted that vaccines are important for people to get back to a more normal life.

Dr. Parks could not reiterate enough that if anyone is having any type of heart related symptoms that delaying treatment and care could likely mean the difference between life and death.