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Awareness of Heart Attack Signs Lags in U.S.
Date:2/21/2008

But most people surveyed know to call 911 when one happens, CDC says

THURSDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Too many Americans are not aware of all the warning signs of a heart attack, and the percentage who know what to do when one is suspected is not as high as it could be, a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds.

The survey results, released Thursday in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, are part of an ongoing effort to reduce deaths from heart attacks. More than 900,000 Americans have heart attacks each year, and there are more than 150,000 deaths, about half of which occur within one hour of symptom onset, the CDC said, so awareness and quick action are vital.

And yet, according to a statement by Dr. Jing Fang, a CDC epidemiologist and the study's lead author, "It is clear that the overall public awareness of heart attack signs and the importance of calling for emergency medical assistance quickly in the event someone is experiencing a heart attack or stroke was alarmingly low."

The state-by-state differences are important, she added in an interview. "We see marked disparities between states, and those states that have lower awareness should be more aggressive," Wang said.

The survey used data from the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System involving 71,994 Americans in the District of Columbia and 13 states. They had been asked about their awareness of the five warning signs of heart attack: pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back; feeling weak, lightheaded or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder; and shortness of breath. They were also asked what they would do if such symptoms occurred.

Overall, a large majority of people knew the right answer to that last question: Call 911 to get emergency help, rather than calling a doctor or going to a hospital. The proportion of people who said the
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