Hernan Pauccara – Pexels

Heart Research Australia says people make two dangerous mistakes about heart attacks, and their new Heart Smart pocket guide can help.

‘Heart disease is Australia’s number one killer, but it is surprising how little people know about the signs of a heart attack and what is critical to do in the moment,’ said Nicci Dent, CEO of Heart Research Australia.

‘Each day, an average of 20 Australians die from a heart attack. An Australian suffers a heart attack every 10 minutes.’

Each February, REDFEB aims to raise awareness for heart disease and funds for life-saving research.

This year, in addition to encouraging people to wear red and donate, Heart Research Australia is promoting an important Heart Smart pocket guide that could save lives.

Ms Dent said, ‘The Heart Smart Pocket Guide is designed to fit in your wallet or pocket, and is a handy guide to heart attack symptoms and the recommended response in an emergency.

‘By knowing and recognising the symptoms of a heart attack, you could help save someone’s life. Maybe even your own,’ she said.

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Two dangerous mistakes people make about heart attacks

Nicci Dent said everyone should know how to recognise a heart attack, with ‘high odds that either you or someone you love’ will suffer from a heart attack at some stage.

‘Whether you survive that heart attack can depend on what you and your doctors do about it during the first few hours,’ she said.

Ms Dent said the two biggest and most dangerous mistakes people make about heart attacks are:

  1. Assuming the signs are the same for everyone.
  2. Dismissing their symptoms and thinking they’ll just go away. That results in people not acting quickly enough.

‘The longer people delay getting medical attention, the more potential damage is done to the heart muscle,’ said Ms Dent.

‘That’s why we strongly recommend calling 000 – as information can be given over the phone, and ambulance workers can start working on you straight away.’

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Heart attacks symptoms not the same for everyone

Cardiologist Dr Rebecca Kozor said, ‘Many people assume that all heart attacks happen like in the movies – sudden and intense pain in the chest that causes someone to collapse.

‘If that were the case, it would be easy to know when to go to the hospital. In reality, the signs can be less obvious and vary between individuals, she said.

While chest pain is the classic symptom of a heart attack, other kinds of symptoms can occur in addition to, or instead of, chest discomfort. These might include:

  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders, or arms
  • nausea and vomiting
  • indigestion or heartburn-like symptoms
  • suddenly feeling dizzy, weak, faint, light-headed

Dr Kozor said, ‘Women need to know about heart disease – sadly, it kills more Australian women than breast cancer.

‘Chest pressure is still the leading complaint for women, however women experience different heart attack symptoms compared to men – they are more likely to also report nausea, sweating, vomiting, pain in the neck, jaw, throat, or back,’ she said.

Dr Rebecca Kozor

Don’t dismiss symptoms and hope they will go away

According to Heart Research Australia, the number one factor that determines if a heart attack will be fatal is time.

‘I cannot repeat this enough – every minute counts,’ said Dr Kozor.

‘If you’re having a heart attack, prompt medical attention may help protect your heart muscle from permanent damage and perhaps save your life. If you have warning signs of a heart attack, call triple zero immediately and ask for an ambulance,’ she said.

‘The longer the time without treatment, the more damage there can be to the heart muscle and this reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood. This can result in poor blood flow to vital organs, such as the kidneys, and can lead to heart failure,’ said Dr Kozor.

‘While you may have doubts about whether or not to call an ambulance, please do not hesitate. Sadly, many Australian deaths due to heart attack occur before the person gets to hospital or first medical contact,’ she said.

Other advice from Heart Research Australia includes:

  • Don’t drive the patient to the hospital yourself, as you may need to perform CPR.
  • Give the person an aspirin if you have any, unless they’ve been advised not to take this particular medication.
  • Make sure they rest quietly while you wait for an ambulance.
  • If an ambulance is not readily available (for example, in some rural areas), quickly notify the nearest hospital, health clinic or the person’s usual doctor for advice.

Heart Smart Pocket Guide

For a free pocket guide containing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack as well as an action plan that you can carry with you at all times, visit this site.

‘The pocket guide is free to Australian residents, but any financial support towards our life saving research will be gratefully received,’ said CEO Nicci Dent.

‘The simple fact is that research saves lives, which is why Heart Research Australia funds world-class and emerging researchers to conduct ground-breaking research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease,’ she said.

Wear Red in Feb

This February, Heart Research Australia invites all Australians to wear RED for someone close to their heart to help keep families together for longer, whether it’s a family member, wife, husband, special friend, or in memory of someone who sadly passed away due to heart disease.

This year, Zoll defibrillators will generously donate two defibrillators to the organisation and individual that raises the most funds for Heart Research Australia.

For more information on REDFEB and to donate, please visit: www.heartresearch.com.au.