Background Minority women, especially black and Hispanic women, have higher rates of coronary heart disease and resulting disability and death than do white women. A lack of knowledge of minority women’s symptoms of coronary heart disease may contribute to these disparities.

Objective To compare black, Hispanic, and white women’s prodromal and acute symptoms of myocardial infarction.

Methods In total, 545 black, 539 white, and 186 Hispanic women without cognitive impairment at 15 sites were retrospectively surveyed by telephone after myocardial infarction. With general linear models and controls for cardiovascular risk factors, symptom severity and frequency were compared among racial groups. Logistic regression models were used to examine individual prodromal or acute symptoms by race, with adjustments for cardiovascular risk factors.

Results Among the women, 96% reported prodromal symptoms. Unusual fatigue (73%) and sleep disturbance (50%) were the most frequent. Eighteen symptoms differed significantly by race (P<.01); blacks reported higher frequencies of 10 symptoms than did Hispanics or whites. Thirty-six percent reported prodromal chest discomfort; Hispanics reported more pain/discomfort symptoms than did black or white women. Minority women reported more acute symptoms (P < .01). The most frequent symptom, regardless of race, was shortness of breath (63%); 22 symptoms differed by race (P <.01). In total, 28% of Hispanic, 38% of black, and 42% of white women reported no chest pain/discomfort.

Conclusions Prodromal and acute symptoms of myocardial infarction differed significantly according to race. Racial descriptions of women’s prodromal and acute symptoms should assist providers in interpreting women’s symptoms.

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