One in four people in Australia don’t know the warning signs of a heart attack.
Some people may know that chest pain is a warning sign. Less well-known symptoms are dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and pain in the neck, jaw, back or shoulders.
During a heart attack, every minute counts. Recognising the warning signs of a heart attack, and acting quickly by calling Triple Zero (000), can save a life. This could be a friend, family member, work colleague or client.
In February 2022, the Heart Foundation launched Heart Matters. The project aims to save lives by delivering free heart health education sessions to community groups and businesses.
The program has been available in eight Victorian local government areas (LGAs). This includes LGAs with culturally and linguistically diverse communities. These areas have high risk factors for heart attack, low levels of heart health knowledge and low ambulance use.
Heart Matters uses a local workforce model. Coordinators delivering the education sessions are nurses, paramedics and community educators who often live or have worked in their assigned LGA. This means that the Coordinators are part of the local workforce and are embedded in – and connected to – the local community. Delivering the program in collaboration with local businesses and other organisations, helps support the health of people working in those communities.
In the education sessions, participants learn about the warning signs of a heart attack and when to call 000. The sessions also explore the known barriers to calling an ambulance. Barriers include not knowing or ignoring the warning signs. Some people feel embarrassed about calling an ambulance and want to see a local doctor first. Others think an ambulance is just transport to the hospital. But, in fact, treatment starts the moment the ambulance arrives.
Only 40 to 50 per cent of people with acute coronary syndrome arrive at hospital by ambulance. Delays in treatment can increase the risk of having a cardiac arrest before getting to hospital.
Participants also learn about heart disease risk factors and how to reduce their risk through lifestyle changes. To better understand their personal risk, they also learn about the importance of having regular Heart Health Checks.
Working closely with local cultural groups and community leaders, some education sessions are translated in real time or delivered in language. The sessions are also supported by translated resources tailored to the audiences in each LGA. Resources are available in Arabic, Punjabi, Hindi and Vietnamese.
All Heart Matters resources are free and available from the Heart Foundation website. Workplaces can download or order Heart Attack Warning Signs Action Plans to display in the kitchen, workshop, bathrooms or near the workplace automated external defibrillator (if available). Having the action plan nearby could help save a life.
This research project, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, is a partnership between Monash University, Ambulance Victoria, the Victoria State Government and the Heart Foundation. The Heart Matters evaluation will look at changes in ambulance use and hospital admissions in relation to heart attack symptoms.
Find out more and access free heart attack warning sign resources at: heartfoundation.org.au/Bundles/Your-heart/Heart-Matters