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Ignorance Is Not Bliss: Heart Attack Warning Signs

July 24, 2019

Being familiar with the symptoms of a heart attack would seem simple and straightforward. However, research shows that while 95 percent of people know that chest pain is a symptom of a heart attack, only 11 percent could identify all the symptoms and knew to call for help when experiencing any of them. The 2001 study, which spanned 17 states and the US Virgin Islands, revealed that fewer men than women knew the symptoms of a heart attack, and fewer men would call 9-1-1 for help. Other factors besides gender also played a role. For example, those with less education and ethnic groups other than whites were less likely to know the symptoms and reach out for help. Interestingly, people with higher risk factors for heart attack, such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or prior heart attacks were less likely to recognize heart attack symptoms and get help. Studies like this one remind us that education about the warning signs of a heart attack is important so that heart attack patients receive the treatment they need as quickly as possible. Let’s review heart attack symptoms and check out an Australian study to see how education about heart attack signs helped people respond more quickly when they were having a heart attack.



Heart Attack Warning Signs


Heart attack warning signs include the following:


  • Chest pain
  • Pain in the jaw, neck, or back pain
  • Pain in the shoulder(s)
  • Feeling weak or lightheaded
  • Trouble seeing (one or both eyes)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Cold sweats
911 and the ER

911 and the ER

Heart Attack Education Saves Lives


An Australian study from 2015 showed the impact that education can have in helping people respond more quickly if they or someone around them is having a heart attack. The study interviewed almost 200 patients who were admitted to an Australian hospital with acute coronary symptoms. The patients, who were English-speaking and able to sign consent, were between the ages of 35 and 72 with the median age around 62. For a 5-month period before the interviews began, a mass media campaign to promote education about heart attack warning signs was promoted in the Melbourne area. The campaign consisted of radio, TV, and web advertising. Local newspapers also covered the campaign, and promotional materials were given out at hospitals and other community group meetings. In addition, the campaign had a website which offered more information about symptoms and what to do if a heart attack is suspected. Participants were asked whether or not they had viewed any of the advertising, and the times were noted from the first appearance of their symptoms until they sought treatment. Researchers discovered that ⅔ of the participants remembered seeing the advertising and that over 60 percent of those participants stated that the campaign had increased their awareness of what a heart attack is. Almost 70 percent said the campaign helped them know the symptoms of a heart attack, and nearly 60 percent said that the campaign helped them seek treatment more quickly than they would have otherwise. The results of this 2015 study were similar to another Australian study conducted in the 1980s. Both revealed that education helped heart attack patients to recognize their symptoms and get help faster.


Knowing the warning signs for a heart attack could save your life or the life of your loved one. Getting treatment quickly is important, and knowing what to look for can make that happen. Doctorpedia encourages you to familiarize yourself with the heart attack warning signs and ask your doctor any questions. Ignorance is not bliss, not when it comes to heart attacks!

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Nan Kuhlman


Nan Kuhlman is an author, freelance writer, and part-time university professor based in Los Angeles, CA. She currently works full-time as a technical writer in Los Angeles and part-time as an online adjunct writing instructor. She has written for scholarly publications like the University of California, Davis Writing on the Edge and Chapman University’s Anastamos Interdisciplinary Journal, among others.

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