Yet despite the improvements, there are still ways to make heart attacks even less deadly. For example, Myerson's study found that people were taking as long as or longer to get to the hospital during a heart attack than they did 15 years ago, and the researchers ruled that out as something that might be contributing to the increased survivability.
Dr. Alice Jacobs, director of interventional cardiology at Boston Medical Center, said it was "disappointing" that so many people having heart attack symptoms still take two hours or more to get to a hospital.
"This represents an opportunity to focus on strategies that will reduce pre-hospital delay for patients who experience signs and symptoms of a heart attack," Jacobs said.
Myerson and Jacobs agree that public education is the best way to reduce that delay. "When someone has chest pain or chest discomfort, they need to activate the emergency response system as quickly as possible," Myerson said. "We need to educate people on the impending signs of heart attack.
"It might not be the classic crushing chest pain," she continued. "Sometimes it's acute shortness of breath, it's a left arm or jaw pain. It could be a feeling of indigestion. It's always better to go have it checked out."
Jacobs said that primary care physicians could take a leading role in this. "Patients, particularly those at high risk for an event, and their physicians should discuss the warning signs of a heart attack and a plan for how, when and where to seek medical attention," she said.
Another way to improve heart attack survivability would be to place even more of an emphasis on prevention. Myerson said that could be accomplished by having health insurers step up to cover the cost of preventive measures such as nutritional
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