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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
20-May-2014

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Contact: Bridgette McNeill
bridgette.mcneill@heart.org
214-706-1135
American Heart Association
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Chest pain reports down among older Americans and whites, but not blacks

American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report

The percentage of people reporting angina or chest pain dropped in the last two decades among Americans 65 and older and whites 40 and older but not among blacks, according to a study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart isn't getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Symptoms include squeezing in the chest; discomfort in the shoulder, arms, neck, jaw or back; and a feeling of indigestion. It's usually a symptom of an underlying heart problem or coronary heart disease.

"People often don't know that they have heart disease until it's too late," said Julie C. Will, Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and a senior epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga. "Angina serves as a warning to both the patient and the doctor that a person may have underlying heart disease."

Researchers analyzed national health survey data starting in 1988 to find how many patients said a health worker had told them they have the condition and how many people report angina symptoms.

They found:

The data is consistent with previous research showing a decline in the rates of hospitalizations and emergency department visits for angina in 1995-2010.

More effective interventions for preventing and controlling high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking cessation may be needed among blacks, Will said.

The national data included too few Hispanics and other minorities to reveal angina trends among those groups.

Limitations of the study include the possibility that angina may be more often underdiagnosed in some groups, and the fact that angina rates relied on patients' own reports, which could be inaccurate.

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Co-authors are Keming Yuan, M.S., and Earl Ford, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

Additional Resources:

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

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