Many Women Misinformed About Heart Disease
Study Shows Lack of Knowledge About Heart Attack Symptoms
Feb. 10, 2010 -- Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women,
yet nearly half of women would not call 911 if they thought they were having
symptoms of a heart attack.
That's just one of several concerning findings revealed today by The Go Red
for Women Study, funded by the American Heart Association. The program looked
at women's heart-health awareness and trends since 1997.
Researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital surveyed 2,300 women 25 or
older by phone and online to determine who knew that heart disease was the No.
1 killer of women, and what they would do if they might be having a heart
Women's awareness of heart disease has greatly increased over the last 10
years, but it's still relatively low. Furthermore, the level of knowledge has
fluctuated between different racial groups. The recent survey shows that
minority women continue to be significantly less aware of their risk of heart
disease than white women.
The percentages of women surveyed who correctly identified heart disease as
the leading cause of death for their sex were:
- White women: 60%
- Back women: 43%
- Hispanic women: 44%
- Asian women: 34%
Less than half of women ages 25-34, regardless of ethnicity, did not know
that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.
The study also revealed that a women's knowledge of heart attack symptoms
has not improved over the years, a finding that warrants attention, researchers
- Only 56% of women knew chest, neck, shoulder, and arm pain could be a heart
- Only 29% of women knew shortness of breath was a symptom.
- 17% correctly said chest tightness could be a symptom of a heart attack,
while 15% knew nausea was a warning sign.
Fatigue can also be a warning sign of a heart attack in women, yet only 7%
of those surveyed were aware of this symptom.
Misunderstanding of Prevention Strategies
Most of the women surveyed were also unaware of evidence-based therapies for
preventing cardiovascular disease. "Despite recent research showing no benefit
of antioxidant vitamins in women, the majority of women surveyed cited them as
a way to prevent heart disease," Lori Mosca, MD, PhD, MPH, director of
preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, says
in a news release. Slightly less than a third of women thought aromatherapy
could also help prevent heart disease, but this is not a proven
Those surveyed said that better access to healthy foods and public
recreation facilities as well as listing nutritional information in restaurants
would make it easier for them to follow healthier lifestyles. Right now, the
most common reason they did not do so was that they were busy taking care of a
loved one. The second most common reason cited for failing to follow a
heart-healthy lifestyle was uncertainty about how to proceed, which stemmed
from confusing media reports.