Calgary is the best place in Canada to suffer a heart attack, a study carried out by scientists at the University of Calgary faculty of medicine suggests.
The reason: Calgarians have quick and easy access to life-saving angioplasty treatment 24 hours a day at Foothills Medical Centre.
One key factor for surviving a heart attack is getting to a hospital that is equipped to open a blocked blood vessel to the heart within one hour, said the study published in the online journal Open Medicine.
"Treating people immediately with angioplasty can lead to lower death rates and better outcomes," researcher William Ghali said Thursday.
The University of Calgary researchers found that about 64 per cent of Albertans have access to timely treatment, while about 60 per cent of Canadians have access to the treatment also known as percutaneous coronary intervention.
Alka Patel, a researcher at the university, said treatment centres should be located near the largest population.
"Nationally, there are places that could benefit from looking at where is your population sitting? Can you get someone to a hospital that has these services within a specific time frame?" she said.
Alberta is on par with the national average. In Ontario, for example, more people live closer to a cardiac hospital. Ontario has 14 facilities, where more than 70 per cent of adults aged 40 and older have access to angioplasty treatment.
In New Brunswick, fewer people live close to a hospital that offers angioplasty. Only 15.8 per cent of adults aged 40 and older in New Brunswick have access to the treatment. In the three territories and on Prince Edward Island, there are no facilities.
But it is the role that paramedics play that helps get timely treatment in Calgary.
In Alberta, Emergency Medical Services employees are trained to read cardiograms, EMS spokesman Dwayne Clayden said.
If a patient is having a heart attack, paramedics can bring them straight into surgery rather than having to wait for another assessment when they arrive at hospital, he said.
"So what we've essentially been able to do is cut out that entire emergency time because paramedics can talk to doctors ahead of time," Clayden said.
The research also shows that 36 per cent of Albertans do not live close enough to a hospital that offers adequate care for heart attacks.
In those cases, there are other options. For example, patients can be given medication to break up a blood clot, but their survival rates are reduced.