It shows that 70 per cent of the population mistakenly believe they would have a warning sign of this leading cause of death.
There was little recognition that heart disease develops without symptoms, and once established is irreversible, even though the risks of a heart attack may be reduced by lifestyle changes.
More than half of those surveyed thought pain in the chest - angina - was a sign of heart disease developing, when by that stage it is already established.
In coronary heart disease, arteries supplying the heart muscle silt up with fatty deposits, reducing blood supply. Narrowing of the arteries can show as anginal pain, but in more than half of cases a complete block will occur without warning. A heart attack follows, fatal in half of all cases.
Heart disease accounts for more than a quarter of all deaths. There are more than 800 heart attacks a day, and 424 deaths, of which 195 are in women.
The nationwide NOP survey, among nearly 1,000 adults, found that only a third of people identified chest pain as a main symptom of heart disease. One in five was unable to nominate "any sign or symptom".
Respondents underrated the importance of chest pain. More than a third of those questioned said they would not seek medical advice if they experienced chest pain.
Lynn Young, of the Royal College of Nursing, which is promoting the survey, said that even among those who had a heart attack, a second attack might be avoided.
"Coronary heart disease patients can give their hearts and second chance and prolong their lives," she said.
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