Friday, 4th March 2022

Heart attack myths

The NHS has launched a national awareness raising campaign to encourage people to call 999 if they think they are having a heart attack.  As this is an area close to our hearts, we wanted to share the essentials of the campaign on our website as it is relevant to all of us.

Many people don’t know the symptoms when experiencing a heart attack, including TV presenter Peter, who explains what happened to him in the video.  The campaign is also aiming to debunk a number of heart attack myths including the differences between heart attack and cardiac arrest – they are not the same thing!

“It can be easy to dismiss early symptoms as they don’t always feel severe, but it is never too early to dial 999 in this circumstance – and the faster you act, the better the chance of a full recovery”.

NHS medical director, Professor Stephen Powis

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. Whilst the early signs of a heart attack can vary, the most common include squeezing across the chest, sweating and a sense that something just isn’t right. 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.

Symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • chest pain – a sensation of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across the chest
    • Although the chest pain is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion.
  • pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy (abdomen)
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
  • an overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
  • coughing or wheezing
  • While the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain, women are more likely to experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.


Hearty Facts from the NHS

  • It can be easy to dismiss the early signs of a heart attack but it’s never too early to call 999 and describe your symptoms. The faster you act, the better the chance of a positive outcome.
  • Heart and circulatory disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, causes a quarter of all deaths in the UK and is the largest cause of premature mortality in deprived areas.
  • Between April 2019 and March 2020 over 86,500 people had a heart attack (and were admitted to hospital) across England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • In the 1960s more than 7 out of 10 heart attacks in the UK were fatal. Today at least 7 out of 10 people survive
  • An estimated 1.1 million people alive in England today have survived a heart attack.

For the full information and campaign details please visit:

Find out more about the Cardiac Rehab centre

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