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Heart Disease Health Center

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Race and Heart Attack Treatment


Lynn Smaha, MD, president of the American Heart Association, adds in a statement that readings of an electrocardiogram (EKG), which measures electrical activity in the heart, may not be as accurate in blacks as they are in whites. "Confirming that a heart attack has occurred may be more difficult in blacks than whites because it is harder to interpret the EKG findings," he says.

Kiefe, who is professor of medicine at UAB and director of the Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research and Education, urges black patients not to assume that they automatically will receive worse or different treatment should they suffer a heart attack. "These findings need to be interpreted with much caution," she says. "The most important point here is that more study is needed."

For consumers who are concerned, she says, "An educated consumer is always a better patient. Learning as much as you can about [heart disease] and asking questions about things you don't understand are always helpful."

Vital Information:

  • Researchers say that among patients who have had a heart attack, blacks are significantly less likely to get treatment to reopen their heart's blocked blood vessels.
  • The study's authors say they are not sure why this difference exists. They add that they don't think it is a matter of racism but suggest it could be more difficult to tell whether black patients are eligible for this type of treatment.
  • The researchers stress that more study is needed. Until more is learned, they urge patients to educate themselves about heart disease and ask their doctors about their treatment.
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