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Early warning signs of heart attacks ‘being missed'

March 13, 2017

Dr Carl Brookes comments on a recent BBC News Article.

Treatment of heart attacks is one of the success stories of the last ten years with death rates falling by 50%. Nevertheless, heart disease remains the commonest cause of death in the western world and focus is now shifting away from treatment strategies onto earlier identification of symptoms.

In a recent Lancet study looking at all heart attack deaths between 2006 and 2010, the researchers found that 16% of people had been admitted to hospital in the 28 days prior to their death suggesting that some warning symptoms had been misinterpreted. This is not surprising when you realise how variable the presenting symptoms can be but does mean that both the medical profession and patients could do better.

Most people think of the symptoms of a heart attack as severe crushing central chest pain but in females and the elderly in particular, only a minority will experience these classical features. The pain may actually be quite mild and very similar to minor indigestion, it may occur in the throat or be experienced as an ache in the arms and may not even be registered at all. In the latter cases, patients just report feeling generally unwell, nauseated, anxious, a non-specific abdominal discomfort or sweaty. In all cases however, significant symptoms tend to build up over a period of minutes and will last longer than 15 minutes and up to a few hours. Fleeting symptoms or those that last days are very rarely an indication of important heart disease.

Given these findings, it is very difficult to give definitive advice but if you feel unwell with any of the symptoms listed above and there is no other explanation for them, then it is sensible to seek medical attention.

Read the full article here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39114326

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