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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Texas A&M: Sociodemographic Factors Correlate with Heart Attack Symptom Awareness

In a study published in JAMA Network Open and presented at an American Heart Association scientific session, Dr. Bita Kash, of the Texas A&M School of Public Health and director of the Center for Outcomes Research, (a partnership between Houston Methodist and the School of Public Health), investigated heart attack symptom awareness and sociodemographic factors associated with lower awareness. Data was used from a nationally representative health statistics dataset from 2017 of 25,000 American adults.

Researchers collected responses to questions on whether participants considered five symptoms — chest pain, shortness of breath, arm or shoulder pain, feeling faint and jaw, neck or back pain — to be heart attack signs. They then used the responses to assess awareness of all five symptoms and of the three most common symptoms: chest pain, shoulder or arm pain and shortness of breath and whether or not they would call 911. Age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, education level, insurance status, geographic location and immigration status, which included country of birth, length of residence in the U.S. and English proficiency, were also analyzed.

92 percent considered chest pain a sign of a heart attack and smaller numbers also knew that shortness of breath and arm or shoulder pain were signs. 53 percent were aware of all five symptoms, 20 percent were unaware of the three most common and 6 percent were unaware of any symptoms. Awareness was highest in U.S.-born non-Hispanic white respondents with higher income and education levels and private insurance, whereas black and Hispanic respondents, those living in the South, people with lower income or education levels or without insurance and people not proficient in English had the lowest awareness. About 4 percent chose an action other than calling 911, which was skewed mainly toward uninsured respondents over the age of 65.

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