WASHINGTON, May 10 Most women 55 years and younger who have heart attacks don't recognize warning signs, researchers reported at the American Heart Association's 8th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke.
Women younger than 55 years represent less than 5 percent of all hospitalized heart disease patients, but because so many heart attacks occur in the United State each year, even this small percentage affects a large number of people. Young women with heart disease account for about 40,000 hospitalizations each year. Diseases of the heart in young women account for about 16,000 deaths annually, ranking it among the leading causes of death in this group, according to authors.
"The number of young women who die from coronary heart disease each year is roughly comparable to the number of women who die of breast cancer in this age group," said Judith Lichtman, Ph.D., lead author of the study. "Studies have shown that young women with heart disease are twice as likely to die in the hospital as similarly aged men. While these statistics are startling, relatively little is known about the clinical presentation, care or outcomes of young women with heart disease."
In a pilot study, Lichtman and colleagues studied 24 women (55 and younger) who had heart attacks and were admitted to one of two Connecticut hospitals. The researchers asked them about their symptoms before the heart attack and whether they recognized or understood that they were at risk for heart disease.
Nearly 90 percent of the women in the study had the typical heart attack symptom of chest pain, with 7.4 being the average rating of their chest pain on a scale of one to 10 (with 10 being the most painful).
"This means that they were experiencing significant chest pain," said Lichtman, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.
Contact: Karen Astle
American Heart Association