Quick action saves lives
WHEN Gympie’s Gordon Owen experienced extreme pain in his arms and chest in January, he knew he was having a heart attack.
While most people know these typical warning signs, nearly nine out of 10 people do not recognise other equally serious signs, including jaw, neck, shoulder or back pain.
“I knew I was having a heart attack but plenty of people who have had one said they had no idea,” Mr Owen, 58, told The Gympie Times.
“I’ve heard of people ignoring the pain – one person waited up to two days before going to the hospital.”
Knowing the warning signs saved Mr Owen’s life, however the Heart Foundation this week released an alarming new survey revealing more than half of all Australians would not know what to do if they were having a heart attack.
Heart Foundation CEO Cameron Prout said this was largely due to no two heart attacks being the same.
“Warning signs vary from person to person – they are not always sudden or severe. Some warning signs start slowly with only mild pain or discomfort,” Mr Prout said.
“Quick action is essential because the longer you wait, the more your heart muscle is damaged.”
The study also revealed almost a quarter of Australians would not call an ambulance if they thought they were having a heart attack.
In Mr Owen’s case, he was struck by the pain while driving his car and headed straight for his doctor. But research showed many Australians delayed getting help because they were afraid of being embarrassed if it turned out to be a false alarm.
“The Heart Foundation is sending a clear message that nobody ever died of embarrassment, but many people have died from heart attacks because they didn’t get help quickly enough,” Mr Prout said.
“Heart disease is the single cause of death in Australia with one person dying from a heart attack every 46 minutes. On average, one Australian will be hospitalised with a heart attack every nine minutes.”
Mr Prout said if anyone so much as thought they were having a heart attack they should call 000. Operators are trained to respond to symptoms and provide the appropriate level of support.
He said treatment would start the moment you called and an ambulance, the safest way to get to hospital.
“If it turned out to be a false alarm, that is the best thing that could happen. Of patients who die from a heart attack, half will die before they get to hospital.”
Mr Owen said a heart attack could happen to anyone without much of a warning.
“I’ve never been a drinker or a smoker and I don’t eat junk food,” he said.
“A few days before the heart attack I had my blood pressure tested and it was perfect.”