Recognising the symptoms of a heart attack this Heart Month

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Recognising the symptoms of a heart attack this Heart Month

February is Heart Month and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is raising awareness about heart and circulatory diseases, which cause approximately 25 per cent of all deaths in the UK.

With an estimate that one in two people will develop a heart or circulatory condition in their lifetime, and with 7.6 million people currently living with these conditions in the UK, we felt it important to raise awareness too. We are currently acting for a number of bereaved families who have lost loved ones as a result of such conditions, including as a result of heart attacks.

In the UK, there are 260 admissions to hospital every day due to heart attacks, which is one every five minutes. Heart attacks can be fatal if they lead to cardiac arrest, particularly out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, where the survival rate is less than one in ten.

However, the risk of death can be reduced if the symptoms of a heart attack are recognised and treated early enough. Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, explains that “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”. 

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

According to the BHF and the NHS, the symptoms of a heart attack can last for days or develop suddenly.

Most common symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort – it may feel like heaviness, pressure, squeezing, tightening or a burning sensation across your chest. The pain may be severe or more minor, like the feeling of indigestion.
  • Pain in other areas of your body – it may feel like pain is spreading from your chest to your arms, jaw, neck, back or stomach.
  • Light-headedness or dizziness.  
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sweating.

Less common symptoms include:

  • Overwhelming feeling of anxiety – it may feel like a panic attack.
  • Excessive coughing or wheezing.

What should you do if you develop these symptoms?

The NHS advise to call 999 immediately if you think you are having a heart attack.

The NHS further advises that if you have had a heart attack and are waiting for an ambulance, you should rest to avoid unnecessary strain on your heart. Further information can be found here –

The quicker you act, the quicker you receive treatment which “could be the difference between life and death”, according to Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the BHF. There are several treatment options for a heart attack, such as primary percutaneous coronary intervention, bypass surgery and medicine to break down blood clots, which will be offered depending on the severity of your heart attack.

JMW’s expertise in claims arising from heart and circulatory conditions  

Our clinical negligence department have expertise in handling claims arising from a failure to treat heart and circulatory conditions and delays in diagnosing heart attacks and/or cardiac arrest. We recognise the devastating and life-changing impact that a delay in diagnosis can have on individuals and their close ones.  

For example, our London team are currently acting for a client whose partner very sadly passed away last year. Our client’s partner experienced symptoms of a heart attack, including chest pain, pain in her upper back, shortness of breath and coughing, which she initially thought was heartburn.  

Despite reporting this to her GP, she was misdiagnosed and shortly afterwards suffered a heart attack and subsequent cardiac arrest at home. Although an ambulance was called and she underwent surgery, she unfortunately did not survive.

Evidence currently suggests that had she been correctly diagnosed, she would have attended hospital earlier and with enough time for treatment to have been more effective and potentially lifesaving. We are investigating whether the failure to suspect a heart attack was negligent.  

If you would like to chat with a member of our team about a potential claim, please get in touch and we would be happy to assist.

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