Many patients with heart disease have poor knowledge of heart attack symptoms

May 26, 2008

Nearly half of patients with a history of heart disease have poor knowledge about the symptoms of a heart attack and do not perceive themselves to have an elevated cardiovascular risk, according to a report in the May 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Individuals with heart disease have five to seven times the risk of having a heart attack or dying as the general population, according to background information in the article. Survival rates improve following heart attack if treatment begins within one hour. However, most patients are admitted to the hospital 2.5 to three hours after symptoms begin.

“Barriers to seeking appropriate care quickly are both cognitive and emotional,” the authors write. If patients do not know the symptoms of acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) and other acute coronary syndromes—including nausea and pain in the jaw, chest or left arm—they will not seek treatment for them. If they do not perceive themselves to be at risk for heart attack, they will look for another explanation when they experience these symptoms.

Kathleen Dracup, D.N.Sc., of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing, and colleagues surveyed 3,522 patients (average age 67) who had a history of heart attack or an invasive procedure for treating narrowed arteries. The patients were asked to identify possible symptoms of heart attack and responded to true-false questions about heart disease. Participants also were asked whether they were more or less likely than other individuals their age to have a heart attack in the next five years.

The average cardiac knowledge score was 71 percent. Despite their history of heart disease, 44 percent of the patients had low knowledge levels, as documented by scores of less than 70 percent. Women, individuals who had participated in cardiac rehabilitation, those with higher education levels, younger individuals and those who received care from a cardiologist as opposed to a family practitioner or internist tended to score higher.

“In this group of patients, who were all at high risk for a future acute myocardial infarction, 43 percent inappropriately assessed their risk as less than or the same as other people their age,” the authors write. “More men than women perceived themselves as being at low risk (47 percent vs. 36 percent, respectively).”

Changes in the health care delivery system have led to less hospital time for heart disease patients, reducing the amount of time available for education about heart disease symptoms, the authors note. “Patients require continued reinforcement about the nature of cardiac symptoms, the benefits of early treatment and their risk status,” they write. “Our findings suggest that men, elderly individuals, those with low levels of education and those who have not attended a cardiac rehabilitation program are more likely to require special efforts during medical office visits to review symptoms of acute myocardial infarction and to learn the appropriate actions to take in the face of new symptoms of acute coronary syndromes.”

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Soldiers cite 'Medic!' as a top hearing priority

Related Stories

New nanogel for drug delivery

Feb 19, 2015

Scientists are interested in using gels to deliver drugs because they can be molded into specific shapes and designed to release their payload over a specified time period. However, current versions aren't ...

Recommended for you

Soldiers cite 'Medic!' as a top hearing priority

13 minutes ago

'Medic!', 'Hold fire!' and grid references are amongst the highest priorities for soldiers to be able to hear while on duty, according to new research from the University of Southampton.

New measures identified for newborn care in Uganda

1 hour ago

In Uganda, child mortality rates are improving, but progress is slower for deaths occurring in the first four weeks of life, or the newborn period, and for stillbirths. But recent evidence from local researchers ...

Should men cut back on their soy intake?

3 hours ago

Recently, a friend called my husband to inquire about the risks for men in consuming too much soy milk. He had read an article that described how one individual's plight led him down the path of breast enlargement, and was ...

Probing Question: What is umami?

4 hours ago

The next time you're at a dinner party and want to spice up the conversation, you might compliment the hosts on their umami-rich appetizers. Then wait a moment until someone invariably asks, "What's umami?"

Will the Affordable Care Act eliminate health disparities?

5 hours ago

Massachusetts' health reform may be a crystal ball for researchers and policymakers in forecasting the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act. Many see the ACA as the backbone of efforts toward closing the nation's health ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.