For individuals experiencing a heart attack, delays in getting to the hospital can have life-threatening consequences.

A new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that certain factors - non-white race, atypical symptoms, and heart failure - are linked with such delays in older individuals.

The study included 2,500 patients aged 75 or older hospitalised for heart attack. Pre-hospital delay (six or more hours before getting to the hospital) was much more common (42%) than in studies of younger heart attack populations, in whom the reported prevalence ranges from 20% to 25%.

"Delays in presentation can have huge consequences for older adults with heart attacks. Based on the results of our study, we need to develop better clinical and public health strategies to ensure timely presentation, especially among non-white communities, those with atypical symptoms, and those with heart failure," said lead author Dr. Gregory Ouellet, of Yale University.