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Covid-era telecommuting behind 30% drop in heart attacks, chief doc says

The chief doc emphasised that the actual number of heart attacks had declined, and not a matter of people hesitating to seek treatment.

File photo of a rescue worker and patient in an ambulance. Image: Jarkko Heikkinen / YLE

There were around 30 percent fewer heart attack patients admitted to hospitals across Finland last spring, and telecommuting may be behind the trend, according to an expert from the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS).

Chief physician at HUS' heart and lung centre, Mika Laine, told Yle Radio 1 on Wednesday that the clear reduction in heart attacks as well as strokes were related to environmental, not genetic, factors.

Stress hormones are known to raise blood pressure and cause heart arrhythmia, and it is widely thought that teleworking and the more relaxed approach to working from home have alleviated potential cardiovascular strain of many workers.

Laine emphasised that the actual number of heart attacks had declined, and it was not a question of people hesitating to seek treatment. The number of cerebral infarctions were also down during that period, he explained.

The chief doc said that, generally, around 90 percent of heart attack victims under the age of 50 are smokers, but noted that many people kicked the habit during the coronavirus crisis and due to working from home, were not out in polluted air as they didn't need to commute to work.

A similar trend was also observed in the United States, where the number of heart attack patients fell sharply, by as much as 40 percent, last year.

A major research effort regarding coronary heart disease is now being carried out by the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).