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HomeNewsResearch prompts calls for a better understanding of heart attack signs, especially during exercise

Research prompts calls for a better understanding of heart attack signs, especially during exercise

A new study has directed the spotlight to the risk of a cardiac event for those over 35 playing football, while also highlighting a concerning lack of knowledge around recognising the early signs of a heart attack. 

Conducted by researchers from RNSH, the University of Sydney and the Kolling Institute, the study surveyed more than 150 masters age amateur soccer players involved in competitive and social games. 

The research is believed to be the first of its kind to assess cardiac knowledge and beliefs in this higher-risk amateur football group.

Senior author Professor Geoffrey Tofler, RNSH cardiologist and University of Sydney academic said the study identified that one in five participants had one or more possible cardiac symptoms during a game in the prior year, but only a quarter of them sought medical attention. 

“Our research indicates a concerning trend and we hope that by raising awareness of heart health, we will be able to reduce the risk of a cardiac event such as a heart attack and sudden death,” he said.

“We know that strenuous exercise can cause a temporary increase in cardiac risk, but being able to recognise the warning signs of an impending cardiac event will help lower those risks. 

It’s important to act quickly on symptoms and if a cardiac arrest occurs, promptly begin CPR and have a readily accessible defibrillator
Senior author Professor Geoffrey Tofler

Other key findings include:

  • Almost half of those surveyed had little or no confidence that they would recognise the signs of a heart attack. 
  • In response to a hypothetical episode of chest pain while playing, less than half would leave the field immediately, while 49 per cent would stay on the field for 5-10 minutes to see if the pain eased, and others would play on. 
  • Three quarters of participants said they would use the internet for information about their symptoms before seeing a doctor.
  • Less than 40 per cent were aware of the less typical signs of a heart attack. 
  • One high-risk attitude was that nearly half of the participants indicated that if they thought they were having a heart attack, they would prefer someone to drive them to the hospital rather than have an ambulance come to their home. 

Co-author Associate Professor Tom Buckley said encouragingly, the participants agreed that CPR training was important and that defibrillators should be staples at football fields during all games. 

“These steps could make the difference between life and death for someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, as the survival rate decreases by seven to ten per cent for every minute without the use of CPR or defibrillation” he said.

“While the benefits of exercise still far outweigh cardiac risk overall, these measures may further increase the benefit to risk.” 

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