Marathon traffic delays lead to higher heart attack death rates
Practical tips for getting fast hospital care when a heart attack or stroke may be happening
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study concluding that marathons pose a health risk. But the “why” will likely surprise you.
Researchers studied marathons that took place all over America, from 2002 to 2012, in cities including Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington DC.
They found that the heart attack death rate was three or four percent higher on dates and places where there was a marathon. That means for every 100 people who go into cardiac arrest or a heart attack on a marathon day, three or four more would die than on a normal day.
The reason for this significant hike in the mortality rate is that it is that the road blockages and traffic on marathon days makes it harder to get to the hospital. The average ambulance time was four minutes longer on race days than the time for normal days. Some people even just give up getting out in the traffic and delay seeking care, to their detriment.
When it comes to emergencies, delays can be deadly
As a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I have seen many different types of cases where the amount of time it takes a person to get treatment at a hospital makes a significant different in the outcome. Think about two well-known examples, like heart attacks and strokes.
Experts recommend that you call 911 immediately if you have symptoms of a heart attack, like chest pain or discomfort, upper body discomfort, or shortness of breath. Some people delay calling 911 to take aspirin or see if the heart attack symptoms go away on their own. That is a dangerous gamble. The National Institutes of Health say that every minute matters and that the safest way to get treatment is to call 911.
Similarly, seeking immediate treatment is also important for people who may be having a stroke. You can remember the signs of a stroke by the acronym FAST:
F, for FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A, for ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S, for SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
T, for TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
In my experience, if there is a life-threatening emergency like a heart attack or stroke, it is always best to call 911. The ambulance crew will know where the hospitals are located and the fastest way to get to them, even if there is a marathon or other event that is blocking traffic.
Plan in advance for an emergency
What would you do if you had an emergency medical situation at your home or office? Who would you call? Where would you go?
I recommend that you do some advance research on hospitals near your home and office. You can easily go online and find out about their capabilities. Some hospitals have specialized centers that focus on stroke or cardiac care, for example, and that would be important to know.
Make sure that you know how to drive to nearby hospitals from your home and office. Commit the driving directions to memory, so there will be no delay if you need to get there quickly.
If you or someone that you care for has been injured by hospital treatment for a stroke, heart attack, or other condition, call 281-580-8800 for a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.
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Published in the July/August 2018 edition of "The Houston Lawyer" magazine
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