For those who suffer a heart attack, receiving treatment within one hour increases the chances of survival. Unfortunately, most are not admitted to the hospital until 2.5 to 3 hours after their symptoms arise. This delay in seeking treatment may be largely due to a lack of knowledge as indicated by a new report. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing administered a true-false test to more than 3,500 patients in the US, Australia and New Zealand who had previously suffered a heart attack or had undergone procedures for heart disease. Sadly, 44 percent scored poorly on their ability to identify symptoms of a heart attack. This may help explain why previous studies have found those who have previously suffered a heart attack and suffer a subsequent attack do not seek help any faster than those who have never suffered a heart attack in the past. It's extremely important to be able to identify the potential symptoms of a pending heart attack, especially for those who have heart disease, those who have suffered a previous heart attack and those over the age of 50.
According to the American Heart Association's website (http://www.americanheart.org):
"Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the 'movie heart attack,' where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness"
Source: Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(10):1026.