By Karen Stokes
Recent research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, says differences in initial heart attack diagnosis and treatment were found among Black and Hispanic adults compared to white adults.
“Physicians have three essential responsibilities,” said senior study author Jared W. Magnani, M.D., M.Sc., an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
“First, they must practice medicine that is blind to race and ethnicity, providing the same standard of care regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or other social factors. Second, they must understand how patients’ life experiences – due to structural factors, racism, financial obstacles and other social determinants may influence risk factors, access to care and how serious their condition is at presentation. Third, they must be aware of their personal biases, which may influence their ability to provide equitable care.”
The Journal of the American Heart Association is an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. but racial and ethnic minority groups carry a heavier burden. Heart disease risk factors and diagnoses are more common among ethnic minorities. Social factors, known as social determinants of health, drive these health disparities.
Discussing why racial disparities continue to exist in medical treatment, Dr Tadeo A. Diaz Balderrama, Cardiologist, at SSM Health said, “I think there’s quite a few factors, first of all the way our healthcare system is distributed we do have a high prevalence of segregation among neighborhoods, definitely different density of healthcare and quality of healthcare depending on location it makes a big impact.”
The research showed:
• Data from 2017-2019 indicates Black and Hispanic adults faced disparities in initial diagnosis and treatment for a heart attack compared to white adults, according to a study of more than 87,000 adults with health insurance.
• Black and Hispanic adults were less likely than white adults to undergo a common procedure called coronary angiography, which is critical to determine the extent of blockages in arteries feeding the heart, as well as a procedure to clear blockages.
• Within each racial and ethnic group, people with lower annual household incomes were also less likely to undergo coronary angiography.
“An impact that we don’t think about is that medicine is mostly practiced by white individuals,” Dr. Balderrama said. “We are becoming more diverse and we’re finding that as we become more diverse, some of these discrepancies in care among different races and racial backgrounds do decrease.”
According to the American Heart Association, in the United States, coronary heart disease, which includes heart attack, causes 1 of every 7 deaths. But many of those deaths can be prevented by acting fast! Each year, about 635,000 people in the U.S. have a new heart attack and about 300,000 have a repeat attack. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense.
But most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Here are some of the signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
• Chest discomfort.
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body.
• Shortness of breath.
• Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services (EMS) such as the fire department or ambulance immediately.
“Heart disease is an equal opportunity offender and we need to be aware of those differences to be able to deliver equal opportunity care,” Dr. Balderrama said. “We need to take the time to break down barriers and improving the diversity in our healthcare will significantly help.”