Heart attacks require emergency treatment. But too many Americans are arriving at a hospital for treatment later than is optimal, researchers said Monday.
Experts advise calling 911 for an ambulance if symptoms suggestive of a heart attack do not improve within five minutes. But a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the average patient arrived at the hospital about 2.6 hours after symptoms began and 11% arrived more than 12 hours after symptoms began. Women, nonwhites, diabetics, smokers and older people had longer delays. When comparing this data, from 2006, to a similar survey in 2001, the researchers found that delay times have not improved over the years.
The study involved 104,622 people who had a kind of heart attack called a non-ST-segment elevation heart attack. While people who have an ST-segment elevation heart attack have worse outcomes if treatment is delayed, it's not known how delays effect people with non-STEMI heart attacks. The study showed, however, that delays were not linked to higher death rates while in the hospital.
But someone having symptoms doesn't know what kind of a heart attack he or she is having, so everyone needs to respond to symptoms as an emergency, said the authors of the study, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Here's a link to the American Heart Assn.'s list of heart attack symptoms.