Friday, October 09, 2020 - Chest pain? Here’s what you should do

The longer you wait to address potential heart attack symptoms, the worse the damage can be, according to St. Tammany Health System’s Dr. Paul Stahls. (Stock image)

By Mike Scott,

Ever since March, when it first reared its head locally, COVID-19 – and how to avoid catching it – has dominated the thoughts of nearly everyone everywhere every day.

In many cases, though, that’s been to the detriment of their health from a non-COVID standpoint.

In an effort to stem that trend – and with October being recognized as Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month – St. Tammany Health System’s Dr. Paul Stahls appeared as a guest on WVUE-Fox 8 in New Orleans on Friday morning (Oct. 9) to remind people that neglecting one’s health can be just as bad as, or even worse than, contracting the coronavirus.

“We find that, specifically in the time of COVID, people have been trying to avoid coming to the hospital, and we’ve seen some late-onset manifestations of cardiac arrest,” Dr. Stahls said. “The longer people wait with those heart attacks, the worse the damage can be.”

Typically, Dr. Stahls said, sudden-onset cardiac arrest is signaled by chest discomfort, sweating, shortness of breath and nausea. But that’s not the only way heart attacks present themselves.

Often, he said, symptoms might be milder, such as shortness of breath when working in the yard or climbing stairs at work. That can be dangerous, because the symptoms are then easier to dismiss – which can mean a much bigger problem down the road.

If any one suspects they might be having a heart attack – whether sudden-onset or mild – Dr. Stahls said they should immediately call 911 to get the fastest medical attention possible.

An even better course action, though, is to take some of the proven steps to avoid heart attacks before symptoms ever arise in the first place.

“As I tell all my patients in my clinic, I should have a neon light flashing all around: diet, exercise and weight loss,” Dr. Stahls said. “That is how we avoid cardiac disease. … We’re always trying to lower the risks: cholesterol, weight, blood pressure, sleep apnea, obesity, etc. That’s how we avoid the real ramifications of severe cardiac disease.”

Watch Dr. Stahl’s full interview at