5 Nights That Could Save Your Life

Night 1 - Heart Attack

Our first report was on Australia's biggest killer, heart attacks. There are around 3,000 heart attacks every year in Western Australia. A third of them will be fatal, but experts say the difference between life and death could be a matter of recognising the symptoms and taking action immediately.

We spoke to Royal Perth Hospital cardiologist Professor Leonard Arnolda, Trevor Shilton from the Heart Foundation and heart attack survivor Brett Owen to learn more.

For more information the following is from the NSW Health Department Website.

Recognising the symptoms of heart attack and what to do.

Many people in Australia die each year because they - or someone who was with them at the time - didn't recognise the signs of a heart attack or waited too long to act. New medical treatments for heart attack can save lives and prevent serious damage to the heart - but these treatments work best when they're begun within an hour or two of the heart attack.

The warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • A squeezing sensation or pain in the centre of the chest or behind the breastbone which lasts more than ten minutes
  • Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms
  • Sweating and feeling short of breath
  • A sick feeling in the stomach.

Sudden pain or discomfort in the chest can be frightening - not just for the person with pain, but also for other people who are there at the time. It's natural to hope that the problem is caused by something like indigestion or a pulled chest muscle and delay taking action. This attitude can be fatal, so can fear of embarrassment if you call for medical help only to find out the symptoms turn out to be something quite minor. There's no need to be embarrassed - doctors and hospital staff will think you have done the right thing.

If it is a heart attack, there's no time to waste. If you or someone with you has these warning signs, the National Heart Foundation of Australia urges you to act immediately:

  • Use the telephone to call 000
  • Ask for the ambulance service
  • Report a possible heart attack
  • Don't worry if you have difficulty speaking English, you can still make this call. If the operator can't understand you, he or she will contact the Translation and Interpreting Service for help
  • If an ambulance is not available soon, ask someone to drive you to hospital.

If you are a relative or a bystander, you should make sure the above steps are followed:

  • Tell the hospital or the patient's doctor what has happened
  • If the person is unconscious and you know how to do heart-lung resuscitation, try to resuscitate them.

Ways to reduce your risk of a heart attack:

  • Don't smoke
  • See your doctor for regular check ups of your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
  • Eat a low fat diet, especially animal fat
  • Keep to a healthy weight
  • Take regular moderate exercise, such as walking.


Heart Foundation - heart health and advice

Heart Foundation (WA) - heart health and advice

Health Department (NSW) - heart attacks what you need to know

St John's Ambulance - first aid for heart attacks