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Gap exists in women’s knowledge of heart disease

A new survey from the American Heart Association shows that women have a limited knowledge of heart disease. Among the findings, based on telephone interviews with 2,300 women, 60 percent of white women, and less than half of African-American, Hispanic and Asian women, knew that heart disease is the leading cause of death for female adults. Only 53 percent of respondents said they would call 911 if they thought they were having a heart attack, and many were unfamiliar with the tell-tale signs of an attack, including arm and shoulder pain, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

The first person that came to mind when I read about the findings, which appear in the current issue of the AHA journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, was cardiologist Jennifer Tremmel, MD. "I wish I could say that I'm surprised to hear that women aren't familiar with the symptoms of a heart attack, but I can't," Tremmel, who directs Women's Heart Health at Stanford, told me. "Even healthcare providers still struggle to understand women's symptoms. This survey shows that we still have a lot to do in terms of awareness, education, and research."

Tremmel said there's a lot of misinformation about heart disease, especially on the Internet, and "the best thing you can do is find a doctor you trust and discuss your therapies with her or him." She also encouraged women to visit the AHA's Web site for the latest news on women and heart health.

More on the AHA survey can be found here. Women's Heart Health also has an informative FAQ page on its Web site.

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