Study Shows Heart Attack Awareness Lags in US

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A survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the results of which were released Feb. 21, revealed too many Americans are not aware of what the warning signs of a heart attack are and the percentage who know who action to take is too low.

A survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the results of which were released Feb. 21, revealed too many Americans are not aware of what the warning signs of a heart attack are and the percentage who know who action to take is too low.

The survey’s results, which appeared on several popular websites, including MSN, appeared in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and are part of its efforts to reduce deaths from heart attacks.

More than 900,000 Americans suffer heart attacks in a given year, resulting in 150,000 deaths. Many deaths occur withinan hour of the onset of symptoms.

The American Heart Association (AHA) lists the following warning signs:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

According to the study, the data derived from the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System involving 71,994 Americans in 13 states and the District of Columbia asked about awareness of the warning signs.

The participants were also asked what they would do if heart-attack symptoms occurred.

A large majority — nearly 80 percent – knew to call 911 instead of calling a doctor’s office or going to a hospital, but only 31 percent questioned knew all the signs of a heart attack. The survey also showed educational and ethnic differences, as more than a third of those with a college education knew to call 911, while only 15.7 percent of those with less than a high-school education did.

Whites had a 30.2 percent awareness to call 911, African-Americans 16.2 percent and Hispanics 14.3 percent.

All I know is quick reaction to symptoms _ I had chest comfort that, while formidable, was not crushing, but had a cold sweat like I never experienced before. I reacted, had the heart attack quickly after arriving at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Langhorne, Pa., and being rushed into Cardiac Catherization Lab.

There is a natural tendency among us — not matter the race or ethnic background – to blame what might be a warning of a heart attack on indigestion, vertigo or other problems. A physician, taking no chances, might admit a patient to the hospital and intestinal issues might be the cause of chest discomfort. In that case, as a patient, I would be greatful. It is certainly better to be safe than soory.

What this survey reveals is the CDC, AMA and other groups need to redouble their educational efforts with the American public. When I first began traveling after my heart attack and to a lesser extent now, I research where the top heart hospital in the city to which I am traveling to is.

You don’t want to take any chances with heart-attack symptoms. I can both tell you that by experience and am glad I remain here to spread those thoughts to anyone who will losten.

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