Older Americans and whites reported less chest pain or discomfort (angina) in the past two decades, but there was no such drop among blacks, a study shows.
Angina is often the first sign of a heart problem or coronary heart disease, the researchers noted. It occurs when the heart doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood.
"People often don't know that they have heart disease until it's too late," study author Julie Will, a senior epidemiologist at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a news release. "Angina serves as a warning to both the patient and the doctor that a person may have underlying heart disease."
Their analysis of national data from 1988 to 2012 found that the rates for whites aged 40 and older who reported angina fell by about one-third between 2001 and 2012, and fell by half between 1988 and 2012.
Rate in black community unchanged
There was no change in the rate among blacks new, according to the study released online in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
The findings suggest that greater effort may be needed to control high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking among blacks, said Will.
There wasn't enough data on Hispanics and other minority groups to reveal if there were similar trends in chest pain in those groups.
The rates for women aged 65 and older who reported angina fell by nearly half over a little more than a decade, and by almost 60% during nearly 25 years of follow-up. The rates for men aged 65 and older dropped by more than 40% between the late 80s and 2012.
The findings from this study are in line with previous research that found fewer hospitalisations and emergency department visits for chest pain between 1995 and 2010. However, it's not clear if the decline in older adults and whites is due to better heart health or if people aren't reporting the problem to their physicians as often.
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Image: Senior African American couple from Shutterstock