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People urged to take heart attack symptoms seriously

Only half of people who present themselves in hospital suffering from a heart attack arrive by ambulance says the Irish Heart Foundation, which has urged people to call 999 if they feel unwell.

Westlife's Nicky Byrne launches new IHF heart attack campaign.
Westlife's Nicky Byrne launches new IHF heart attack campaign.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

PEOPLE HAVE BEEN urged to call an ambulance immediately if they suspect they are having a heart attack, after figures revealed that many fail to do so.

About 6,300 people suffer a heart attack in Ireland every year, however just half of those who present themselves at hospital experiencing a heart attack arrive by ambulance. The Irish Heart Foundation is urging people, and particularly men, to take symptoms seriously and call 999 if they feel unwell.

The new initiative – “Don’t die of embarrassment” - is backed by Westlife’s Nicky Byrne and his family after his father, Nikki Byrne Senior passed away from heart attack in 2009.

“We all know someone who has had a heart attack and the symptoms are not always what you think. It does not always have to be a Hollywood heart attack. That’s what happened to my dad,” said Byne at the launch of the campaign at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin. “He wasn’t feeling well but, like many men, he didn’t want to cause a fuss,” he added.

Figures from the CSO (Central Statistics Office, 2008) show that 83 per cent of premature deaths from heart attack under the age of 65 occur in men – which is equal to five men dying prematurely every week or a total of 274 premature male deaths annually.

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation and consultant cardiologist said that a heart attack is a “serious medical emergency” and every minute lost or delayed in getting treatment increases damage to the heartmuscle and increases the risk of death. “Too often the signs are ignored until it is too late or delays occur by going first to the GP, calling a family member or friend or even by driving yourself to hospital which is extremely dangerous.  Our message is simple – don’t die of embarrassment, pick up the phone and dial 999 immediately,” she said.

An Irish Heart Foundation survey showed that most Irish adults (58 per cent) seem to know the symptoms of a heart attack, the problem appears to lie in calling for help, says However according to Brown. “It is shocking to think that almost 6 out of 10 people know heart attack symptoms but when it comes to getting help, only half of these will arrive by ambulance,” she said.

After losing his father to a heart attack, Byrne talked about the devastating consequences of waiting too long to seek help: “He had a pain in his lower stomach the day before he passed,” he said “We now know he was having a heart attack. At just 60 years old, he passed awayin November 2009″.

Heart attack symptoms

Heart attack symptoms can be diverse including chest pain, pain in the neck, arm, back or jaw, breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Heart & Stroke Helpline 1890 432 787

If you are worried about heart or stroke problems, talk to an Irish Heart Foundation nurse in confidence Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm on 1890 432 787.

Heart Month, September 2011

This September is the Irish Heart Foundation’s heart month which is supporting the heart attack TV awareness campaign by telling men how to prevent a heart attack. For a free copy of A man’s guide to heart health call 1850 364 364.

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