CDC Study: Men, Minorities Less Likely to Know Heart Attack Signs

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, but an alarming number of adults fail to recognize the signs and symptoms. These are among the findings of a new CDC/Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study conducted in 14 states.

The 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. 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.

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