High-rise buildings: killer views and dangerous wait times

 
By Laura Mize • Published: April 11th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Posh high-rise apartment buildings usually have great views, but they might be lacking something important — quick help for heart attack victims.

A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reviewed nearly eight-thousand cases in which emergency workers responded to calls about heart attack victims in private Toronto-area homes between 2007 and 2012. The researchers analyzed where each patient was located, finding that nearly 80 percent of cases took place on the three lowest floors of most buildings.

In medicine, as in real estate, it’s all about location. Patients who lived below the third floor were more likely to survive their heart attacks, researchers found. While their overall survival rate was grim — just 4 percent — they fared far better than people living on higher floors. Just 2.6 percent of people who lived on or above the third floor survived their heart attacks. And the chances of survival grow slimmer on the highest floors, according to researchers. Less than 1 percent of the people on floors 16 and higher lived, while no one survived a heart attack above the 25th floor.

The most important factor was the time it took medical workers to reach a person. Residents on higher floors waited longer for paramedics, but researchers said older age and being male were also factors that affected survival rates.

The researchers also noted that while it’s common to track the time it takes emergency workers to reach a patient’s location, the time needed to reach that person typically is not measured. Other seemingly small factors such as unattended front doors, waiting for an available elevator and the location of emergency defibrillators can also affect survival rates, the study’s lead author said.