Waiting to Call For Help?

Waiting to call for help? Ambulance at the ER with heart attack patient.

A study finds that half of people who suffer with a heart attack fail to immediately call an ambulance for help. This delays the diagnosis which could potentially worsen their odds of survival. People who found another way to the hospital or delayed calling an ambulance increased their average diagnosis time from 81 minutes to 119 minutes.

The researchers analyzed treatment timelines for about 450 people suffering a severe heart attack caused by a prolonged period of blocked blood supply that affects a large area of the heart.

Among the study participants who didn’t immediately call for an ambulance, 30 percent didn’t think they were sick enough to go to the hospital.  The study authors believe the reluctance to call an ambulance comes from uncertainty about whether the symptoms are really a heart attack.

Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies. Every second counts. It is important to quickly assess the symptoms and immediately call 911. The symptoms of heart attacks are:

• Chest pain or discomfort

• Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint

• Pain and discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back

• Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders

• Shortness of breath

Other symptoms may include unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting.

Calling 911 is one of the fastest ways to get lifesaving treatment. Minutes matter!


Thylen I, et al. First medical contact in patients with STEMI and its impact on time to diagnosis. BMJ Open, 2015: e007059 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007059.

Centers for Disease and Prevention. “Heart Attack Symptoms, Risk, and Recovery.” Retrieved 28, October 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heart_attack.htm.

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