ATLANTA - Only about 1 in 4 Americans know the warning signs of a heart attack and what to do first, according to a new government report.
That's a decline in knowledge since the last survey in 2001, which showed nearly 1 in 3 to be well informed.
The study's lead author, Dr. Jing Fang, called public awareness in the new survey 'alarmingly low.' Fang is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which surveyed residents of 13 states and the District of Columbia.
Heart attack warning signs can include one or more of the following five symptoms: shortness of breath; pain or discomfort in the chest; discomfort in the arms or shoulder; a feeling of weakness or lightheadedness; and discomfort in the jaw, neck or back.
Chest pain is the most common symptom. Women are more likely than men to experience some of the other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath and back or jaw pain, according to the American Heart Association.
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should call 911, the heart association advises.
The groups best informed of heart attack warning signs and what to do about them tended to be white, highly educated, and women. Also scoring well were residents of West Virginia, which has some of the nation's highest heart attack death rates.
Each year more than 900,000 Americans suffer a heart attack, and about 157,000 of them are fatal. About half the deaths occur within an hour of symptoms occurring, experts say.
Because different people experience different symptoms, it's important to be aware of all of them, doctors say.