An alarming number of adults fail to recognize heart attack warning signs and symptoms that could, if heeded, save their lives, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study conducted in 14 states.
The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study, “Disparities in Awareness of Heart Attack Warning Signs and Actions among U.S. Adults in 14 States,” found that men (22.5 percent), blacks (16.2 percent), Hispanics (14.3 percent), and those with less than a high school education (15.7 percent) are less likely to know the major signs of a heart attack. They were also least likely to call for emergency assistance; compared to women (30.8 percent), whites (30.2 percent) and those with higher educations (33.4 percent).
“The findings from the study may serve as an important indicator for other states and suggests that more public education and communication campaigns are needed to increase awareness, particularly among the high risk populations of men, blacks, Hispanics, and the under-educated and in those areas where awareness is low,” said Dr. Jing Fang, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist in the CDC Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.
The warning signs of heart attack are pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back; feeling weak, lightheaded, or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder; and shortness of breath.
Each year, about 920,000 Americans suffer a heart attack. Of those who die, about half of them die within an hour of the first symptoms and before they ever reach the hospital. The early recognition of heart attack warning signs by victims and bystanders and the immediate action of calling for emergency medical assistance are crucial for timely access to cardiac care, receipt of advanced treatment, and the increased potential for survival.
“In addition to the differences, it is clear 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,” said Dr.Fang. “Only about a quarter, or 27 percent, of those participating in the study who know all five major signs of a heart attack said they would also call 911 or otherwise seek emergency assistance if an individual appeared to be having a heart attack.”
The study also found that the awareness of specific heart attack warning signs and the number of people who said they would call emergency medical personnel to report heart attack or strokes varied by states. The recognition of jaw, or back pain and discomfort as warning signs ranged from 34 percent in Washington, D.C. to 59 percent in West Virginia; feeling weak, lightheaded or faint ranged from 53 percent in Washington, D.C. to 70 percent in Iowa; chest pain and discomfort ranged from 86 percent in Tennessee to 96 percent in West Virginia; and pain or discomfort in the shoulder was from 77 percent in Washington D.C. to up 92 percent in West Virginia.
Study participants indicating that they would call for emergency assistance or call medical personnel to report a heart attack or stroke ranged from 78 percent in Mississippi to 89 percent in Minnesota.
For more information on the signs and actions of heart attack, visit the CDC Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Web site at www.cdc.gov/dhdsp. For more information on the risk of heart disease among various ethnic groups visit: http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/Populations/BAA/BAA.htm