pamela stewart fahsEducating women about heart attacks could save lives.

Professor Pamela Stewart Fahs educates women, particularly in rural communities, about female heart attack symptoms. It's information that could save their lives.

"Too often, women who are having a heart attack don't recognize the symptoms," says Stewart Fahs, also Decker Endowed Chair in Rural Nursing. "They may have a different perception of what a heart attack would be like or they just think, 'This can't be happening to me.'"

That's where the Matters of Your Heart project comes in.

As part of the project, Stewart Fahs, together with Melanie Kalman and Margaret Wells (PhD '07, rural nursing), professors in the College of Nursing at SUNY Upstate Medical University, developed an educational program to help women in rural and urban communities recognize signs of a heart attack, thus shortening the time to treatment and saving lives.

The researchers have developed and administered a questionnaire to measure a woman's knowledge of heart attack symptoms and warning signs. Then they've presented the informational program and given the questionnaire again, collecting data on how much knowledge is retained.

They found that women were more knowledgeable after the educational program. Currently, they are exploring whether one way of presenting the information, using acronyms, works better than just providing a list of symptoms.

Women can experience a range of symptoms that may not necessarily include the same kind of chest pains that men can report feeling. Some of these symptoms can include chest ache or discomfort, as well as extreme, unusual fatigue, the cause for which cannot easily be explained, Stewart Fahs says.

"It is essential to identify female heart attack symptoms as soon as possible since quick treatment can not only prevent death but also prevent or limit the extreme disability that can occur if the heart muscle is damaged," Stewart Fahs says.

Her faculty endowment is supported by Binghamton University Foundation funds. She also is co-recipient with Kalman and Wells of a grant from the Rural Nurse Organization to teach women about female heart attack symptoms.

Stewart Fahs notes that in rural communities, fewer people are exposed to these health messages because of several factors: lack of healthcare services available close to home, less Internet access and lack of messaging on displays such as billboards or in information specific to rural women.

Last Updated: 10/31/16