Considering that heart diseases are the leading cause of death for both men and women, there's no room for ignorance of heart attack symptoms. But unfortunately, that's far from the case in the U.S., according to a recent and very telling study, presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions.
The Level of Ignorance
Heart attack symptoms are supposed to be fairly common knowledge, even for people whose medical expertise comes entirely from movies. However, the aforementioned study, whose purpose was to reveal whether the general public is prepared to undertake the proper emergency response to a heart attack, tells a different story.
The researchers, who looked at over 25,000 American adults, found that 6% of them didn't know any
of the heart attack symptoms, listed in the survey. More importantly, the study wasn't designed to be tricky or misleading. On the contrary, it was a "yes or no" test, asking participants whether chest pain/discomfort; shortness of breath; pain/discomfort in arm/shoulder; feeling weak/lightheaded/faint; and jaw/neck/back pain, are heart attack symptoms or not.
Who's The Most Ignorant?
The study's revelations didn't end there, however. It turned out the likeliest participants to be fully unaware of any of the symptoms were men, people born outside of the U.S., those whose level of education was high school or lower, and blacks and Hispanics.
Furthermore, 4.5% of participants picked "other" as opposed to calling emergency medical services in the case of a heart attack.
The Reasons Behind This Ignorance
Two possible reasons surface in the aforementioned findings.
The first one is the language barrier.
"These are the subgroups that are most in need of, and may benefit the most from, targeted public health awareness initiatives," said Shiwani Mahajan, the study's lead author.
The second reason is low income, which is another common thread among the most ignorant subgroups, and a notorious roadblock to equality in heath care.