According to a survey by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), 40% of Brits would not make 999 their first call if they suspected they were having a heart attack, and another 64%, say they would call someone other than 999 first if they were experiencing the main symptom of a heart attack, chest pains.
The findings, from a poll indicate that almost half the population would ignore the chest pains that could be heart attack symptoms, and would wait and see if they got better before calling for medical help.
Many would first call their partner, friend, relative, GP or NHS Direct when experiencing chest pain.
The BHF says this attitude is costing thousands of lives as prompt treatment greatly improves greatly the chances of surviving a cardiac arrest and anyone with chest pain should call the emergency services immediately.
It seems that while most people assume that the pain from a heart attack is intense, the first symptoms are often mistaken for indigestion and ignored.
As a result of the survey the BHF have launched a 'Doubt Kills' campaign, urging people not to delay in calling 999 if they are experiencing chest pain.
The campaign features a billboard advert showing a man with a belt tightening around his chest, with the caption ‘A chest pain is your body saying call 999'.
Medical director of the BHF, Peter Weissberg, says the statistics are very worrying and, wonders if British reserve and stoicism account for the reluctance to call 999 even in the most serious of emergencies.
Weissberg says every second counts during a heart attack, and the quicker you call 999 the greater the chance of survival.
He says the message is if you’re suffering chest pain, call 999 immediately, because doubt kills.
Apparently most people who have a heart attack wait for an average of 90 minutes before calling for an ambulance, and an average of two hours and 40 minutes passes before they are treated.
In Britain every two minutes, someone has a heart attack, and about one in three of these people die before reaching hospital.
Those who receive treatment four to six hours after the onset of symptoms are twice as likely to die as those treated within one to two hours.
Professor Weissberg says many of the deaths and heart muscle damage would be avoided if people sought help immediately.
Successful treatments for heart attacks are available in the form of clot-busting drugs and procedures to open blocked arteries.
The most common warning sign of a heart attack, is central chest pain but it does not have to be excruciating to be a serious problem.
Other symptoms include a dull chest pain that spreads to the left arm or jaw, breathlessness and sweating.
The Ambulance Service Association is supporting the BHF's campaign and say they would rather attend a false alarm than arrive too late.
It is estimated that there are as many as 300,000 heart attacks in Britain annually and the campaign aims to help reduce death and disability from coronary heart disease, which is the UK's single biggest killer with almost 106,000 deaths in 2004.
The BHF is sending more than 750,000 leaflets to all GP surgeries and Co-op Pharmacies and the campaign poster will be displayed on 2,500 billboards across the country. billboards across the country.