Hollywood heart attacks
If you really don’t want to know what
happens in Eastenders this week it’s probably best to stop reading
Having given you fair warning of a plot
spoiler, I don’t think I’m actually giving much away given how
widely previewed it’s been that Eastenders’ Phil Mitchell will have
a heart attack on the programme.
It’s always fascinating to see how heart
attacks in TV programmes are portrayed as it tells us how people
expect to experience a heart attack in real
This usually involves a
character suddenly clutching their chest in excruciating pain
before quickly collapsing to the floor. We’ve seen it plenty of
times before in the soaps, Neighbours Jim
Robinson and Coronation Street’s
Mike Baldwin have both suffered this ‘Hollywood style’ heart
Soap operas are out to capture the audience’s
attention so it’s not surprising that heart attacks are portrayed
so often in a dramatic fashion.
However, we know that for many people this
isn’t their experience of a heart attack. Symptoms can be
very varied and often people can dismiss them as something
innocuous like bad indigestion.
It’s a story we hear from lots of heart
attacks survivors. I’ve heard from people who thought they’d pulled
a muscle or who just thought they had heartburn and waited to the
following day before seeking help at a hospital.
The reality is that heart attacks
symptoms can affect people very differently. The
You can probably see why a scriptwriter will
opt for a character to have more dramatic symptoms and it helps get
the message out that a heart attack can happen to anyone. But
it doesn’t help get the message out about how different they
We run campaigns to help
people understand what a heart attack might feel like. We also
created a short film to give people the chance to ‘watch their own heart
attack’ and find out what it might be like to have one.
That awareness is crucial as it’s
really important to phone 999 at the very first
sign of a possible heart attack. Every second
counts when you are having a heart attack,
and phoning 999 immediately for an ambulance means you should
get treatment sooner, increasing your chances of survival.
There is no need to feel embarrassed about
getting it wrong – saving your life is more
important than saving face.
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