Leading heart physicians at U.S.-based Cleveland Clinic say there is a clear need for greater heart attack awareness in GCC, after a survey found many residents identified stroke symptoms of as those of a heart attack, and most could not identify a correct first response to a heart attack.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death around the world. The survey was conducted as part of Cleveland Clinic’s “Love your Heart” consumer education campaign. Cleveland Clinic has been ranked America’s No. 1 hospital for cardiology and cardiac surgery for 23 years in a row by US News & World Report.
Most people could identify two symptoms – “pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest” and “shortness of breath” – as symptoms of a heart attack. Only in two countries did more than 70 percent correctly identify pain in the chest – Bahrain with 74 percent and Oman with 73 percent.
“The first symptoms of having a heart attack is chest pain, shortness of breath, most of the time there is pain in the upper left arm, back pain, nausea, and also one of the first symptoms is sweating,” said Maan Fares, M.D., cardiologist and vice chairman of global patient services at Cleveland Clinic.
In Saudi Arabia, 52 percent of people, or about half of those surveyed, correctly recognized this as a symptom, and only 49 percent of men. The results for other countries were 62 percent in Kuwait and 64 percent in the UAE. Those correctly identifying shortness of breath as a symptom ranged from 48 percent in Oman to 64 percent in Bahrain.
When asked to identify heart attack symptoms, a significant number instead chose stroke symptoms, including around 40 percent across the region who selected “sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg” and around 20 percent who selected “slurred speech,” both of which are symptoms of a stroke.
In a separate question asking what was the “thing to do first” in the event of a possible heart attack, fewer than half correctly identified “call an ambulance” – widely considered by doctors as the fastest way for a patient to start receiving proper care. Figures ranged from just 36 percent in Saudi Arabia and Oman, to 43 percent in the UAE, 46 percent in Kuwait, and 48 percent in Bahrain.
Between 8 percent and 12 percent said they would chew an aspirin as a first response – with the common headache tablet known to slow blood clotting and reduce the severity of a heart attack until help arrives.
“If you are experiencing symptoms of heart attack, a patient has to realize there is need to call an ambulance. It is important to go the hospital and have the opportunity to treat the patient in the best way possible to make the heart function properly. Time is very important in order to avoid having chronic heart disease in the future,” Dr. Fares added. “The other things that the patient can do at home, take one to two pills of aspirin to help thinning the blood. The other things that the patient can do – taking the nitroglycerin pill under the tongue in order to alleviate the pain until they make it to the hospital.”
Around 1 in 10 said they would call their physician, or drive to the hospital – either driving themselves or having someone else drive. Doctors say both courses of action are likely to delay treatment and place the patient at greater risk of serious heart damage or death.
Patients travel to Cleveland Clinic, located in Cleveland, Ohio, from around 185 countries every year for treatment, including locations in Weston, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England to open in late 2020.
An interview with Dr. Maan Fares can be viewed below. Click HERE to download the interview.
Methodology: Cleveland Clinic’s survey of the general population to gathered insights into perceptions of heart disease. This was an online survey conducted among a nationally representative sample, consisting of 2,557 adults, 1,536 male and 994 female 18 years of age and older, in GCC countries. We have weighted the numbers to be nationally representative. This online survey was conducted by YouGov between January 3 and 10, 2018.