Healthcare News & Insights

Study sheds light on why women ignore heart attack symptoms

Here’s a scary statistic: Only 53% of women would call 911 if they had symptoms of a heart attack.

Those are the results of a recent survey. Some of the other data from the survey also indicates that the medical community is taking baby steps in improving patient education, there’s still a lot to be done — and some communities are getting the message more clearly than others.

The telephone survey, conducted by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, asked 1,100 women to identify the leading cause of death of women. The responses were alarming.

Although 60% of white women correctly identified heart disease as the leading cause of death for women, most minority women could not. Only 44% of Hispanic women and 43% of African-American women knew heart disease was the biggest risk to their health. Asian women did even worse, with only 34% answering correctly.

Younger women were equally confused — one-third of women between ages 25 and 34 thought breast cancer was the leading cause of death for women.

Symptomatic — but too busy to go to the hospital

Respondents were also asked to identify common symptoms of heart attack. While most knew chest, neck and shoulder pain were potential signs of a heart attack, only one-third knew shortness of breath was also a symptom.

Even among those who could identify the symptoms of a heart attack, only 53% said they would call 911.

Note: In general, the respondents to this survey were well-educated. Researchers say that means the survey results may actually underestimate how well informed the general female population is. .

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