Heart Biases That Can Kill
Millions of Americans experience heart attack symptoms each year. So why do some get better treatment than others?
What You Can Do
So how can you get better care for a potential heart attack, no matter your race, income level, or sex?
Get wise to all the symptoms. In addition to chest pain or difficulty breathing, heart attack symptoms can also include an unexplained feeling of fullness; indigestion, gas, or nausea; lightheadedness; sweating; or pain in the arms, jaw, neck, or back. "Doctors have to be aware that if discomfort occurs from the navel to the nose, they should think of a heart attack first," says Curry.
Call 911. That ensures you'll get an ambulance to take you to the hospital and therefore be cared for more quickly. Guidelines for hospital accreditation require that ambulance-arriving patients suspected of having heart attacks must get an EKG within 10 minutes after arrival and a doctor's exam within 30; those arriving on their own don't fall under these guidelines, says Curry.
Bring an advocate. A friend or family member can better serve as the doctor's eyes and ears. "The patient may talk about some pain, but a spouse will be more likely to describe other symptoms. Your spouse is probably more likely to tell the doctor of sweating or other symptoms."