Page last updated at 07:25 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 08:25 UK

Drama 'over-eggs heart attacks'

Billie Piper in BBC drama collapses with suspected heart attack
BBC drama showing Billie Piper collapsed with suspected heart attack

The overly dramatic way television and film portray heart attacks may be to blame for some people overlooking real life symptoms, says a charity.

"Hollywood heart attacks" often show people collapsing and clutching their chests in extreme pain.

But the British Heart Foundation warned the symptoms of a heart attack can be far more subtle and easier to ignore.

The charity warned it was vital for people having a heart attack to seek medical care as quickly as possible.

We need to get the message out there that heart attacks on the silver screen and TV aren't what people usually experience
Betty McBride
British Heart Foundation

Every year almost 250,000 people in the UK suffer a heart attack - and a third die before reaching hospital.

The signs of a heart attack can vary from person to person but common ones include central chest pain, a pain which spreads to the arms, neck and jaw, and feeling sick, sweaty or short of breath accompanied by pain.

Both sexes, but most likely women, could suffer a mild discomfort in the chest accompanied by general feeling of being unwell, a pain spreading to the back or stomach or a chest pain that feels like a bad episode of indigestion.

Survey results

Four out of 10 people (38%) questioned by the BHF said their information about heart attack symptoms came from TV and films.

I was really surprised to find out I'd had a heart attack because they always show people on television shows like Coronation Street keeling over, but my experience wasn't anything like that
Marian Sherry

Only 6% said they had sought advice or discussed the issue with their GP.

Almost one in five (18%) of more than 2,000 people questioned said they did not know what the symptoms of a heart attack were.

Betty McBride, director of policy and communications at the BHF, said: "We need to get the message out there that heart attacks on the silver screen and TV aren't what people usually experience.

"There are so many symptoms. The thing is if you are feeling very unwell, not like yourself and you have that little suspicion, this doubt in your mind that you are maybe having a heart attack, don't delay, call 999."

Marian Sherry, 61, from Berkshire, who had a heart attack, said: "I was really surprised to find out I'd had a heart attack because they always show people on television shows like Coronation Street keeling over, but my experience wasn't anything like that.

"I just had a tight feeling across my chest and some pain up my arms but fortunately I got help in time."


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