One in five adults unable to name heart attack symptom

Closeup shot of a mixed race woman in casual wear holding her arm while suffering pain and sitting on her sofa in the lounge at home. One unrecognizable female struggling with an injury and arthritis

One in five adults in Australia are unable to name any heart attack symptoms, and only around half report chest pain as a symptom.

Published in journal Heart, Lung and Circulation, the research examined awareness during and following the Heart Foundation’s Warning Signs Campaign, which ran from 2010-2013. The Warning Signs campaign improved Australians’ awareness of heart attack symptoms, confidence to act and to call an ambulance if symptoms were experienced.

The new cross-sectional study found awareness has declined significantly in the years following the Warning Signs campaign. Researchers compared heart attack symptom awareness of 101,936 adults, aged 30-59, across 2010-2014 during and immediately after the campaign, and 2015-2020.

Awareness of chest pain as a heart attack symptom fell from 80% in 2010 to 57% in 2020. The proportion of respondents who could not name a single heart symptom increased from 4% to 20%.

Lead author Associate Professor Janet Bray of the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said awareness was unlikely to have improved in the time since the study finished in 2020, as public health messaging had been focused on COVID. New approaches were needed to ensure people acted appropriately if symptoms occurred, she said.

The findings have prompted the Heart Matters study, an NHMRC-funded trial to improve heart attack awareness in eight high-risk local government areas.

“It involves community education sessions and reaching groups with known low warning sign awareness and ambulance use,” Heart Foundation Manager Clinical Evidence, Dr Amanda Buttery said.

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