Belfast Telegraph

Don't ignore coronary symptoms

Editor's Viewpoint

It has been known for a long time that there is a high risk of death from heart attacks in Northern Ireland.

Despite this it is disturbing to discover that half the people who actually suffer heart attacks tend to put their lives at greater risk by not seeking medical health for more than an hour.

This might seem foolhardy, but in human terms it is perhaps understandable. When people feel pains in the chest or similar symptoms they may delay calling an ambulance because of fear of the unknown; or hoping that the symptoms are no more than those of severe indigestion; or in cases often involving men, of simply not wanting to make a fuss.

Whatever the reason, the stark reality is that those who are slow to seek medical help may be putting their lives seriously at risk and literally dicing with death.

The chances of survival and of making a good recovery depend on the time taken to receive help, and this is simply a question of "the sooner, the better".

Due to the pioneering work of the late Professor Frank Pantridge and his senior colleagues at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, who developed the mobile coronary unit, we are fortunate in having one of the most advanced cardiac services in the world.

However, one of the key factors is getting the right treatment at the right time, and every moment of delay can make the situation worse.

Despite the work undertaken to decrease the incidence of heart attacks, which remain our biggest killer, there is much more still to be done.

It is astonishing that some 80% of the survivors of heart attacks had not recognised the symptoms, and that 35% thought that they were experiencing indigestion.

There is the added complication that some of the symptoms vary between males and females, and there is clearly a great need for people to find out more about the warning signs of their serious condition.

We may also be genetically more predisposed to heart attacks than people in other places, but we should learn all we can about dietary and other lifestyle choices to reduce the risk.

If the worst happens we should seek urgent help to give medical staff the opportunity to give patients the best chance of survival.

This is one area where delay can - literally - be fatal.

Belfast Telegraph


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