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Warning over number of people ignoring heart attack symptoms

By Lesley Houston

People are risking their lives by ignoring symptoms of heart attacks - Northern Ireland's single biggest killer.

Half of people here suffering potentially fatal attacks jeopardise their life and their future recovery by ignoring the symptoms for more than an hour.

Research by the Northern Ireland branch of the British Heart Foundation showed many people mistake their symptoms for something much less serious, like indigestion, and fail to act. The charity has revealed alarming statistics which reveal that someone suffers a heart attack approximately every 100 minutes in Northern Ireland.

In response it is calling on people to be more aware of the signs and says far more research is needed to improve ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating heart attacks.

The warning comes as the charity is funding £29m research into a quicker method of diagnosing heart attacks, treatment and prevention.

A survey of survivors showed that more than 80% initially failed to realise that they may be having a heart attack, with more than one in three, 35%, mistaking their symptoms for indigestion.

A heart attack is caused when a blood clot forms in a narrowed coronary artery, cutting off the blood supply to the heart muscle.

"Worryingly, nearly two thirds (59%) of those polled still didn't realise that they might be having a heart attack at the point they finally sought medical help for their symptoms," the charity says.

Research has shown that nearly half of potentially salvageable heart muscle is lost within one hour of the coronary artery being blocked.

However, the figures published yesterday show only approximately one in four heart attack survivors surveyed (26%) managed to get treatment within this timeframe, meaning that the majority put their lives and future recovery at risk. And in contrast to the common misconception that a heart attack strikes suddenly causing victims to keel over, statistics show that more than 90% of those surveyed remained conscious.

Only one in 10 (13%) of those asked collapsed during their heart attack. Dr David Grieve, BHF NI scientist at Queen's University Belfast said it was "extremely alarming" that most people dismiss their symptoms as something innocuous. "The quicker you get medical help after a heart attack the greater chance you have of making a full recovery," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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