Widespread public ignorance about the symptoms of a heart attack and heavy traffic on the country’s roads conspire to ensure that a large proportion of heart attack victims die before they get to the hospital, experts told an Athens press conference yesterday. Forty percent of acute heart attack victims reach the hospital an average of 260 minutes (over four hours) after suffering their first symptoms, while 20 percent die on the way, members of the Hellenic Cardiological Society noted ahead of World Heart Day on Sunday. Presenting the results of a recent study by Athens University professors, conducted on a random sample of 3,042 people, experts revealed that 38 percent of men and 24 percent of women suffer from high blood pressure – a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes – but that the majority have not sought therapy for their condition. Indeed, only 15 percent of those with hypertension regularly monitor their blood pressure, according to the study. Experts stressed that a balanced diet, regular exercise and not smoking were the key to keeping heart problems at bay. The main symptoms of a heart attack are pain in the chest, sometimes spreading to the back, arm and the neck as well as sweating, while women may sometimes also experience stomach pain, they said. Meanwhile, the consumer group INKA revealed that the overwhelming majority (84 percent) of elderly patients on medication are treating a heart problem, while 77 percent take drugs for high blood sugar. Four out of five Greeks aged over 65 take at least one kind of medicine a day and the average elderly patient takes half their medicines without a prescription, according to INKA’s Thessaloniki office. But up to 68 percent of patients do not take the correct dosage of their medicine, INKA said. New medicines for Alzheimer’s are slowing down the development of the disease, which has seen a significant increase over the past years among Greeks, affecting an estimated 141,000 people, it was revealed yesterday.