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Younger Women Often Miss Signs of Heart Attack
Date:5/2/2008

Small study found they attributed symptoms to stress, indigestion and fatigue

FRIDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Many younger women ignore or simply don't recognize the warning signs of a heart attack, often because it doesn't resemble the typical "Hollywood heart attack."

So say the authors of a study being presented Friday at the American Heart Association's annual Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, in Baltimore.

"So many women said, 'We wish we had a better stereotype, you never see anything in the media,'" said study author Judith Lichtman, an associate professor of epidemiology and public health at Yale School of Medicine. "I personally would love to see some cutting-edge TV series of, for example, a young person having a heart attack with atypical symptoms."

"The classic image of someone having a heart attack is someone like John Belushi. It's a heavy man clutching his chest. We never think of young women as having heart disease, so the image is not part of their consciousness," added Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women & Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It's so important that we not only tell women that heart disease doesn't necessary have to look like [a Hollywood script], but they have to understand what makes them at risk."

Heart disease is the leading killer of American women, claiming almost half a million lives a year, or about one death per minute. According to background information from the authors, 16,000 young women with heart disease die every year and 40,000 are hospitalized.

Last year, a study from the same group of researchers found that women under the age of 55 often fail to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack until it's too late.

Eighty-eight percent of women in that trial reported traditional symptoms of severe chest pain. Yet only 42 percent suspected something wa
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