Archive for Sunday, April 14, 2002

Study finds women have heart attack warning signs

April 14, 2002


— Some women experienced undiagnosed warning signs up to two years before having a heart attack, with blacks reporting their symptoms in greater number, intensity and frequency than whites, a researcher reports.

The majority of these women recalled having early symptoms an average of six months before their heart attack. Black and white women had the same top five most-frequent symptoms, but they differed significantly when it came to many others.

"These women say, 'I would do anything to help another woman get diagnosed earlier and maybe save another life,'" said Jean C. McSweeney, a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock who conducted the studies.

"Black women have more risk factors and more co-existing illnesses, which may account for some of this difference. But we will have to do further investigation to see if there are other factors," she said.

The findings from McSweeney's studies were presented Saturday to a conference by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, other federal health agencies and the American Heart Assn. They resulted from interviews with 647 women between September 1999 and December 2001 at three medical centers in Little Rock, Ark., and at university hospitals in Columbus, Ohio, and Greenville, N.C.

Fatigue, sleep disturbance, shortness of breath, indigestion and anxiety were the most common symptoms of heart disease reported by black and white women alike in her study.

But blacks more often reported other significant symptoms, such as appetite changes, aching arms and frequent headaches.

The two studies, funded by $1.3 million in federal grants from the National Institute of Nursing Research, will continue another two years and eventually include equal numbers of white, black and Hispanic women.

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