Over thirty years ago, on a cloudy, warm Saturday in September, my extended family – the whole motley crew of aunts, uncles, teenagers, babies, second cousins and great aunts – gathered in my Aunt Judith’s back garden awaiting the arrival of my granny and grandfather for their 40th wedding anniversary. But they never arrived. My grandfather had suffered a serious heart attack just as they were leaving. He made it to hospital and survived. But a few years later he would go on to have a repeat episode that killed him.
Most of us know at least one person who has had a heart attack. Heart disease is still one of the biggest killers in the UK and someone is admitted to hospital every three minutes for a heart attack. 70,000 people die from the condition every year.
Whilst your chances of surviving your first heart attack remain high if you make it to hospital in time – around 95% – there is still a significant risk of recurrent episodes. Around 20% of patients have another heart attack or stroke in the first three years following their first, which can result in death.
Over the last century, medical research has defeated and disarmed terrifying killers such as cholera or polio. But heart attacks give us nightmares. And that’s in part because they come in disguise. It’s not always obvious what the signs are. It could feel like the typical crushing chest pain that comes to mind when we think of heart attacks, but it could be more like indigestion. You could just feel unwell with sweating or breathlessness. In short, if you’re having one, you won’t necessarily know it…