The Heart Foundation is calling on Kiwis to put aside their concerns about 'wasting time' and dial 111 immediately if they suspect they or another person is having a heart attack.
Recent Heart Foundation research of New Zealanders over 45, found concern about wasting other people's time was listed by more than half the respondents as the number one reason to delay calling 111.
Heart Foundation medical director Gerry Devlin is also concerned that more than 40 per cent of those surveyed would not immediately call 111 if they thought they were experiencing symptoms.
July is the Foundation's Heart Attack Awareness month and he is imploring Kiwis to stop putting themselves at increased risk of death or permanent heart damage by delaying that important call.
"When a heart attack happens, life-threatening rhythm problems are common. So early access to a defibrillator, carried by ambulances, is really important to save lives.
This is why we recommend calling 111 immediately," says Devlin.
"Also, the earlier the blocked artery is opened up, the less long-term damage there is to the heart muscle. Speed is critical."
Devlin says it's vital that all Kiwis are aware of the symptoms of a heart attack and act with urgency.
"It's okay to call for an ambulance, even if it turns out not to be a heart attack. Let the medical professionals do their job and determine whether the patient is having a potentially life-threatening event."
Symptoms of a heart attack can include chest discomfort lasting 10 minutes or more, pain that spreads to the jaw, shoulders or back, excessive sweating, shortness of breath and nausea.
"It's not always the dramatic chest-crushing pain that people imagine it to be."
Devlin explains women sometimes experience different symptoms to men such as discomfort in the upper back, nausea, sweating and unusual, unexplained fatigue.
The Heart Foundation will be running its national Heart Attack Awareness campaign from 09-31 July, for the third year. This campaign, with funding from the Ministry of Health and the Milestone Foundation, includes an award-winning television commercial.
The ad shows people in the foreground giving a 'Hollywood' performance of a heart attack, while the man on the bench in the background is quietly experiencing actual symptoms of a heart attack.
"Heart disease is New Zealand's biggest killer, claiming the lives of more than 6000 people every year, that's more than one family-member every 90 minutes. Many of these deaths are premature and could be prevented if people could recognise the symptoms and immediately dial 111."
Heart attack symptoms:
Symptoms of a heart attack can include: chest discomfort lasting 10 minutes or more, pain that spreads to the jaw, shoulders or back, excessive sweating, shortness of breath and nausea.
However, women in particular can experience other less obvious symptoms such as discomfort in the upper back, nausea, sweating and unusual fatigue.
Heart disease at a glance:
Heart disease is New Zealand's single biggest killer, claiming the lives of more than 6000 New Zealanders every year - that's one person every 90 minutes.
172,000 Kiwis are currently living with heart disease.