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Women's symptoms are new or different

A study of women's symptoms prior to heart attack indicates that about 95% said they knew their symptoms were new or different a month or more before experiencing their Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI). This was true even when the symptoms were common ones and varied in severity. The most frequently reported symptoms were unusual fatigue (70.7%), sleep disturbance (47.8%), and shortness of breath (42.1%). Notably, fewer than 30% of the women reported chest pain and discomfort prior to AMI, and 43% did not experience chest pain during AMI. Most clinicians continue to consider chest pain as the most important AMI symptom for both women and men.

This study is one of the initial investigations of women's experience with heart attacks, and how this experience differs from men's. Recognition of symptoms that provide an early indication of heart attack, either imminently or in the near future, is critical to forestalling or preventing the disease.

The article describing the study, entitled "Women's Early Warning Symptoms of AMI," appears in today's rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. The study was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), part of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services.

Jean McSweeney, PhD, RN, Principal Investigator of the study at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, said, "Symptoms such as indigestion, sleep disturbances, or weakness in the arms, which many of us experience on a daily basis, were recognized by many women in the study as warning signals for AMI. Because there was considerable variability in the frequency and severity of symptoms," she added, "we need to know at what point these symptoms help us predict a cardiac event."

There were 515 women participating in the study from 5 sites in Arkansas, North Carolina and Ohio. The women were mostly Caucasian, high school educated and
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Contact: Linda Cook
cookl@mail.nih.gov
301-496-0209
NIH/National Institute of Nursing Research
3-Nov-2003


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