Yale School of Nursing, Yale University's Graduate Nursing Programs

Why Do Heart Attack Sufferers Wait to Seek Help? Yale Heart Study Looks for Answers

February 16, 2012

Imagine that someone close to you experiences a heart attack but does not even recognize the symptoms. She waits several hours before going to the hospital and refuses to think that the pain she is experiencing is anything more than heartburn. Unfortunately, this is the case for many heart attack sufferers and researchers are asking themselves why.

“We are so embedded and invested in our daily lives that we are very, very reluctant to just drop everything and seek medical care,” said Angelo Alonzo, PhD, Research Scientist at Yale University School of Nursing and head of the Yale team looking into why people suffering from heart attacks wait so long to get to the hospital. “Only when the signs and symptoms become so overwhelming that we have few choices do we willingly go [to the hospital].”

After working as a Public Health Officer with the National Institutes of Health and specifically focusing on the problems of delayed acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and acute coronary syndrome (ACS) care seeking, Alonzo wanted to look further into the decision processes of the people who wait to get medical care.

In order to get answers, the Yale Heart Study team created a survey that heart attack survivors could take to elaborate on their experience. The team hopes to gain valuable information in order to help people in the future get care as quickly as possible when they are experiencing heart attack symptoms.

The survey itself is conducted online and takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the person’s experience. The Yale Heart Study team hopes to reach 2,300 participants for this study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health. All responses are anonymous and anyone who helps a survivor complete the survey is eligible to receive a Yale Heart Study Community Service Certificate equivalent to an hour of community service.

Alonzo and his team see delayed treatment as a critical problem in our society. “We still have not come up with an effective intervention for getting people to the hospital much earlier than the typical median time of around four hours,” said Alonzo. “One gets the most therapeutic benefit if they are in the hospital emergency room within the first hour of acute symptoms onset.”

Getting your loved one to the emergency room as soon as possible is the best thing to do for them when they are experiencing heart attack symptoms, so why do people wait so long to get them there? The Yale Heart Study hopes to answer that question and one day reverse this harmful pattern.

Have you or someone you know survived a heart attack? Take the survey online here or send an email for more information.

To receive your Yale Heart Study Community Service Certificate click the “Be Recognized” link on the Facebook page or send an email