Having a heart attack? Let the professionals do the driving

    TORONTO, Oct. 26 /CNW Telbec/ - Thousands of Canadians with heart attacks
are putting their cardiac health at risk by bypassing 9-1-1 or their local
emergency number. They figure the best way of getting to the emergency
room (ER) is by driving there in the family car.
    They could not be more wrong.
    "They are committing a mistake with potentially grave consequences,"
Dr. Madhu Natarajan told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2008, co-hosted
by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.
    His study took place at the Hamilton Health Sciences Centre's hospitals.
It looked at 487 consecutive patients with heart attacks who were admitted to
three emergency rooms. "Approximately 40 per cent of the patients in our study
drove themselves to the ER," Dr. Natarajan told the meeting.
    Patients who drove themselves to the ER -or who had family members do it-
were more likely to be younger, male, with no history of cardiac trouble.
    They experienced a longer wait for diagnostic procedures and a longer
wait for treatment.
    "This group arrived at the hospital later following their symptoms and it
took them longer to get their first electrocardiogram (ECG)," says
Dr. Natarajan. "They also experienced a longer time to receive life-saving
medications and treatments."
    There are sound reasons to dial 9-1-1 or your local emergency number and
leave the car in the garage. "When it comes to heart attacks, every second
counts,'" says Natarajan. "The faster you get to the hospital, the faster you
get treatment."
    It's a lot better than driving around in the middle of the night, or in a
big city rush hour, with chest pains, looking for care, says Dr. Natarajan,
who is an interventional cardiologist and co-director of the cardiac
catheterization labs at Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario.
    Also, in the first hour of a heart attack people are at high risk of
developing irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) that can be fatal.
    Dr. Natarajan's plea for "common sense" is made against a backdrop of
approximately 70,000 heart attacks in Canada each year and over 18,000 deaths.
Most of the deaths occur out of hospital.
    Dr. Natarajan emphasizes: "Getting treatment on time is crucial in
preventing lasting damage to heart muscle."
    Ambulances to deliver emergency cardiac care, with ability to acquire
electrocardiograms and diagnose a heart attack, are well established in
Europe. In Canada they are becoming established in Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary,
Vancouver, and Halifax.
    "The bottom line is that if you think you or someone you know is
experiencing a heart attack, put your lives in the hands of professionals and
call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately," says Dr. Andrew
Travers, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson. "We can't emphasize that
enough. It's part of the chain of survival. "
    Knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and how to activate the
chain of survival are things every Canadian should know, says Travers. The
chain of survival includes early access to the EMS system through 9-1-1 or
local emergency numbers, early CPR, early defibrillation, and early advanced
care. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
    Dr. Travers recommends an integrated systems approach to ensure that
heart attack victims get the most advanced EMS care available in their area,
which can include:

    - life saving diagnosis and treatment from dedicated paramedics in the
    - advance notification to the emergency room to prepare for a heart
      attack patient, and
    - triaging to hospitals with the most appropriate and effective

    Statements and conclusions of study authors are solely those of the study
authors and do not necessarily reflect Foundation or CCS policy or position.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cardiovascular
Society make no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation (heartandstroke.ca), a volunteer-based
health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing
their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the
promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.

For further information:

For further information: and/or interviews, contact the CCC 2008 media
office, (416) 585-3703 (Oct 26-29); Diane Hargrave, Public Relations, (416)
467-9954, dhprbks@interlog.com; Congress information and media registration is
at www.cardiocongress.org; After October 29, 2008, contact: Jane-Diane Fraser,
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, (613) 569-4361 ext 273, jfraser@hsf.ca

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