We're urging people to be aware of the signs and symptoms and call 999 immediately, even if they're in doubt.
Our survey of heart attack survivors showed that around 50% of people who suffered a heart attack delayed seeking medical help for more than an hour, putting their life and future recovery in danger.
Eight in ten people initially failed to realise that they may be having a heart attack, with more than a third mistaking their symptoms for indigestion. Worryingly, nearly two thirds (59%) of those polled still didn't realise that they might be having a heart attack at the point they finally sought medical help for their symptoms.
As a nation we're underestimating the life-threatening consequences of a heart attack, despite coronary heart disease – the main cause of heart attacks – remaining the UK's single biggest killer.
Despite common perceptions, more than 90% of those surveyed remained conscious throughout their heart attack.
We need to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms and fund more research to improve ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating heart attacks.
Funding more research
Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: "It's extremely alarming that the majority of people who suffer heart attacks mistake their symptoms for something less serious and delay getting medical help. Every second counts when someone has a heart attack. The sooner people recognise their symptoms and call 999, the better their chance of recovery."
“Research advances mean seven out of ten people now survive a heart attack. But most heart attacks occur without warning and we have no way of predicting when they will strike. We need to accelerate research into improving our understanding of the furring of the arteries that causes heart attacks and develop better ways of preventing them.”
We currently fund £29 million of research in to finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat heart attacks. A recent project at Kings College London (KCL) is investigating a more effective way of diagnosing heart attacks.
Professor Mike Marber and the team at Kings are studying a protein that leaks from the heart after damage called cardiac myosin binding protein C (MyC). The team is now investigating if measuring MyC is a quicker and more effective way of diagnosing a heart attack, compared to current tests.
Professor Marber said: "It is essential to know whether someone with chest pain has suffered damage to their heart. Our research could lead to a better blood test for heart attack so people can receive the right treatment, more quickly, improving their chances of recovery."
Read more about Professor Marber's work or find out more about heart attacks.