The NHS is launching a lifesaving campaign to encourage people to call 999 when they are having early signs of a heart attack, as admissions for heart attack return to pre-pandemic levels.
The campaign will teach people about the common signs of a heart attack that are often dismissed or ignored by people.
NHS figures show that there were more than 84,000 hospital heart attack admissions in England during 2021/22, up by more than 7,000 compared to the previous year when fewer people came forward for care during the pandemic.
People’s chances of surviving a heart attack are far higher if they seek care earlier, around 7 in 10 people survive a heart attack increasing to more than 9 in 10 for those who reach hospital early to receive treatment.
From this week, an NHS advert will run encouraging people to call 999 as soon as they experience symptoms of a heart attack such as squeezing across the chest, sweating and a feeling of uneasiness, so people have the best chance of survival.
Professor Nick Linker, cardiologist and NHS national clinical director for heart disease, said: “Cardiovascular disease causes one in four deaths across the country, so it is vital that people are aware of the early signs of a heart attack.
“Every moment that passes during a heart attack increases heart muscle damage and nearly all of the damage takes place within the first few hours, so if you experience symptoms such as a sensation of squeezing or tightness across the chest alongside sweating, nausea, or a sense of unease, please call 999 so you have the best chance of a full recovery”.
Health minister, Lord Markham said: “A heart attack is a medical emergency – and recognising the symptoms can be the difference between life or death.
“This brilliant campaign shows what to look out for, and we urge people to call 999 immediately if they notice themselves, or others, experiencing the warning signs.
“Cardiovascular disease is the second biggest killer in England, and this campaign builds on the work we’re doing to cut NHS waiting lists by tackling this condition early – including by rolling out a new digital NHS health check which could prevent hundreds more strokes and heart attacks.”
The campaign will also seek to raise awareness of heart attack symptoms amongst women. Despite heart attacks more frequently affecting men, around 30,000 women are admitted to hospital following a heart attack each year in the UK. Women’s risk of a heart attack increases after the menopause, so it’s really important to take these symptoms seriously.
NHS research also shows that whilst 70% of those surveyed understood that pain in the chest is a symptom of a heart attack, just 41% knew sweating was a symptom and only 27% understood feeling weak, lightheaded or a feeling of general unease were also symptoms.
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “Every minute matters when somebody is having a heart attack, and could be the difference between life and death. Even if the symptoms don’t seem severe, such as a feeling of squeezing or tightness across the chest – call 999 immediately. A heart attack is a medical emergency and immediate action could save your life.”
A heart attack occurs when the supply of blood to the heart becomes blocked, which can starve it of oxygen potentially causing serious muscle damage. The person will be conscious and breathing.
A cardiac arrest is different – it usually occurs suddenly and without warning with the person quickly losing consciousness. Their heart stops, they will have no pulse and sadly people experiencing a cardiac arrest will usually die within minutes if they do not receive treatment. A heart attack can lead to a cardiac arrest.