April 3, 2019

Study finds South Asians with atypical heart attack symptoms take longer to seek emergency care

Cardiovascular nursing researcher Kathryn King-Shier publishes findings in BMJ Open
Kathryn King-Shier receives a gift from people at the Dashmesh Culture Centre following a presentation on her research.

Kathryn King-Shier receives a gift from people at the Dashmesh Culture Centre after her presentation

Faculty of Nursing

A recent study by a University of Calgary nursing researcher shows that South Asians may be in jeopardy of suffering more severe consequences from a heart attack than their white or Chinese* counterparts because of the difference in symptom presentation.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji DIL Research Chair Dr. Kathryn King-Shier, PhD, RN, and her research team recently published in BMJ Open the findings of their study aimed at determining if there were differences in heart attack symptoms and the quickness in seeking emergency care in white, South Asian and Chinese heart attack patients residing in Canada.

“We found that the most common symptom in each of these groups were typical — mid-chest discomfort or pain — often accompanied by radiating pain/discomfort into the left jaw, shoulder or arm,” explains King-Shier. 

“While South Asians were most likely to have these when compared to the other two groups, they also had atypical symptoms that can include nausea, dizziness, sweating, weakness and pain across the shoulders. And unfortunately, these patients took much longer to go to the emergency department and were less likely to receive certain procedures to treat their disease (angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft surgery) than the other two groups.”

More than 1,330 patients from 12 Canadian hospitals participated in the research, the majority of whom experienced this pain mid-chest.

Kathryn King-Shier, bottom left, with research co-ordinator Pam Leblanc, bottom right, and former research assistants Jasmine Johal and Vikram Johal.

Kathryn King-Shier, bottom left, with Pam Leblanc, bottom right, and Jasmine Johal and Vikram Johal.

Faculty of Nursing

“It is so important that people recognize heart attack symptoms early and act by seeking emergency treatment; that ensures they are eligible to get the best treatment options available,” King-Shier says.

Dr. Anmol Kapoor, MD, cardiologist and DIL Walk Foundation founder, says the findings are not a surprise. 

“South Asians particularly, especially those who have high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, diabetes or kidney disease, need to be aware of the typical and atypical symptoms of heart attack, and this study emphasizes how critical this awareness is to achieve the best long-term outcomes,” he says.

“If feeling unwell with any of these symptoms, this population must ensure they seek emergency care immediately to then be eligible to receive the best procedures to treat their disease.”

Kathryn King-Shier also holds a cross-appointment at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), in the Department of Community Health Sciences. She is also a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the CSM.

*Terminology as published in BMJ Open