Washington, May 3 : Many women under 55 years of age often tend to miss or ignore heart attack-warning signs, as the symptoms don't resemble typical Hollywood script heart attacks.
A Hollywood heart attack often shows tightening in the chest, shortness of breath, clutching the chest while dropping to one knee.
The study was conducted over 30 women with an average age of 48 years and had suffered a heart attack.
The young women were asked about their experiences using their own words to describe their recognition of symptoms, their initial actions (or lack of action), and their reasons for not seeking prompt care.
"We found that most failed to connect their symptoms with a heart condition, commonly misattributing them to fatigue, indigestion, stress or overexertion," said Judith Lichtman, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology and public health at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.
They also conducted in-depth telephone interviews with the women within seven days of their hospital discharges for heart attacks between October 2006 and May 2007.
"The stories they told were incredibly rich in detail. We learned that many of these women had no idea that they were at risk for heart disease and were unaware that their symptoms could be connected with a heart problem, citing the lack of good examples in the public media to help them recognize atypical symptoms, or realize that someone their age could even be at risk for a heart problem," said Lichtman.
Moreover, they found that many of the women were surprised that their actual symptoms differed from the 'Hollywood heart attack' that they would have expected.
"They wish that they had known that symptoms such as neck and shoulder pain, abdominal discomfort that was easy to mistake for indigestion, or unusual fatigue could signal a heart problem," she said.
"They often said that TV doesn't show examples of the symptoms they experienced. If they knew, they would have responded to the symptoms sooner," she added.
The study also brought forth the factors that contributed to delays in engaging into healthcare system. The factors were uncertainty, preference to self-medicate, perceived negative treatment by healthcare providers, competing time/family demands and individual beliefs and behaviours to health system failures.
The study was at the American Heart Association's 9th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research (QCOR) in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke.