Large Percentage of Minorities Unaware of Heart Attack Warning Signs, CDC Study Finds
Many U.S. residents, who include a large percentage of minorities, are not aware of all of the five warning signs of a heart attack, according to a CDC study published on Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, HealthDay News/U.S. News & World Report reports (Edelson, HealthDay News/U.S. News & World Report, 2/21). According to the study, only about one in four residents is aware of the five warning signs and which actions to take in response, compared with about three in four residents in 2001 (Stobbe, AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/21).
For the study, CDC researchers examined data from the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System on 71,994 residents in 13 states and Washington, D.C. Participants answered questions about their awareness of the five warning signs and which actions to take in response. The five warning signs include pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back; weakness, lightheadedness or faintness; pain or discomfort in the chest; pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder; and shortness of breath (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 2/21). According to the American Heart Association, chest pain is the most common warning sign, with women more likely to experience shortness of breath and pain in the jaw or back than men (AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/21).
The study found that 30.2% of whites were aware of the five warning signs and which actions to take in response, compared with 16.2% of blacks and 14.3% of Hispanics. In addition, more than one-third of participants with a college education were aware of the five warning signs and which actions to take in response, compared with 15.7% of those with less than a high school education.
Jing Fang, a CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the study, said, "It is clear that the overall public awareness of heart attack signs and the importance of calling for emergency medical assistance quickly in the event someone is experiencing a heart attack or stroke was alarmingly low." She added, "We see marked disparities between states, and those states that have lower awareness should be more aggressive."
Martha Daviglus, a spokesperson for AHA and a professor of preventive medicine and medicine at Northwestern University, said, "It is such a low percentage," adding, "Maybe it is because they are unaware or misinformed," or "maybe it has to do with going to the emergency room of a hospital, thinking, 'We don't have any money, we'll have to pay something'" (HealthDay News/U.S. News & World Report, 2/21).
According to CDC, each year more than 900,000 U.S. residents experience heart attacks, 157,000 of which result in death. About half of heart attack deaths occur within one hour of the first warning signs (AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/21).