Empowering Yourself: Recognising Heart Attack Symptoms Could Be A Lifesaver
By Lauren Amphlett

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we often overlook the subtle signs of illness that our bodies tell us, dismissing minor aches and discomforts. This tendency, however, can prove dangerous, especially when it comes to recognising the symptoms of a heart attack.

A recent survey by NHS England unveils a concerning reality – many individuals are not confident in identifying the signs of a heart attack, with the figures being notably higher among those over 55. This lack of awareness could be a matter of life and death, particularly for individuals with chronic conditions who might misattribute heart attack symptoms to their existing ailments.

The NHS England’s ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign calls for everyone to equip themselves with the knowledge of heart attack symptoms and act promptly by calling 999 if they suspect they or someone around them is having a heart attack.

Heart attack symptoms can be elusive and may vary from person to person. The most common symptom is chest pain, often described as a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness, or squeezing across the chest. However, symptoms can also manifest in other forms, such as pain in the arms, jaw, neck, back, and tummy, lightheadedness, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, an overwhelming feeling of anxiety, coughing or wheezing.

The narratives of heart attack survivors Asif and Gemma underscore the importance of heeding these signs. Gemma initially dismissed her symptoms as exercise-induced discomfort, while Asif mistook his for food poisoning. Their stories are a stark reminder that a delay in seeking help can result in severe heart muscle damage, impacting the quality of life post-recovery.

For individuals managing chronic conditions, it’s easy to fall into a routine of attributing all discomfort to the existing ailment. This mindset, however, can obscure the onset of other serious conditions like a heart attack. Listening to your body, understanding its signals, and seeking medical attention when something feels amiss is imperative.

The campaign by NHS England also sheds light on the common confusion between heart attacks and cardiac arrests. While a heart attack is a circulation problem caused by a blockage that inhibits blood flow to the heart, a cardiac arrest is an electrical issue where the heart suddenly stops beating. Understanding this distinction is crucial as the immediate response required for each differs significantly.

The ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign is more than just a slogan; it’s a plea for public vigilance and a step towards fostering a culture of proactive healthcare. By educating ourselves and acting promptly, we safeguard our health and contribute to a community where timely intervention becomes a norm rather than an exception.

With over 84,000 hospital heart attack admissions in England during 2021/22, the urgency of this message cannot be overstated. Visit nhs.uk/heartattack for further information. Your prompt action could be a beacon of hope for yourself and others, ensuring that heartbeats continue to echo with vitality.