Do you know the various symptoms of a heart attack? According to the CDC, only 27% of people knew the major indicators of a heart attack! While almost everyone recognizes chest pain as a symptom, some of the more subtle clues can be missed. Since early intervention is a major key to surviving, it is important that more people recognize the signs of a heart attack. Sadly, in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that nearly half the people who had a heart attack would die and 50% of those before medical attention could be administered.
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When the heart loses blood, flow and cells within the muscle begin to die. The longer the heart and cells go without oxygen rich blood the more damage the heart sustains. Early intervention literally means the difference between life and death.
- Chest Discomfort- chest pain is the most recognizable of heart attack symptoms. This pain can range from mild to severe and is often described as tightness, squeezing or pressure in the center of the chest. Generally, the discomfort will last several minutes but it may come and go.
- Breathing Issues- Panting for breath or struggling to breathe are classic signs of a heart attack. This symptom is commonly followed by chest discomfort, but not always. Most heart attack symptoms can occur independently of the others. Shortness of breath preceding a heart attack is a symptom more commonly seen in women than men.
- Upper Body Pain- the hallmark symptom of a heart attack is radiating pain down the left arm. However, did you know that pain in other areas of the upper body can also be a sign? Pain in your shoulders, neck, back or even the jaw can be heart attack related and again these signs can occur independently of chest pain.
- Cold Sweat- sudden cold sweats is a much-reported symptom, however cold, pale and clammy skin should not be overlooked either.
- Nausea- vomiting and nausea
- Anxiety- a panic attack or sense of impending doom can be a heart attack symptom. This is one reason each of these disorders is often misdiagnosed.
- Stomach Pain- not a symptom most people commonly associate with the signs of a heart attack, but not uncommon.
Men and Women
Would you be surprised to learn that the signs of heart attack can differ between men and women. A recent study on early heart attack symptoms in women revealed that 43% had no acute chest pain preceding the attack. Unfortunately, this is still the main symptom emergency room doctors look for when it comes to a heart attack.
Symptoms in Women:
- Shortness of breath
- Lower chest discomfort
- Back pain
- Nausea and dizziness
As you can see, many heart attack symptoms could also be attributed to other illnesses, even simple heartburn or acid reflux. If you want to go the extra mile to prevent a heart attack or receive quick medical intervention it is a good idea to understand the risk factors. When you have several risk factors coupled with a few of the more obscure signs of a heart attack you could get appropriate medical attention quicker.
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High cholesterol
- Family history
- Age – over 45 men, over 55 women
- Illegal drug use
During an Attack
It is morning and you have just finished breakfast when the first signs of a heart attack rear their ugly head, what do you do? Many people have questioned the veracity of the aspirin for a heart attack claim, figuring it could not be that simple. However, it is actually that simple! Physicians agree that crushing and swallowing an aspirin during the early stages of a heart attack can in fact save your life. Aspirin is a well know over the counter pain reliever, but it is also thins the blood and fights inflammation. As a blood thinner it prevents blood platelets from sticking together, thus preventing a blood clot from increasing in size.
Unfortunately, too many people are not heeding this advice. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 10,000 lives could be spared each year if people would take a couple of aspirin and call 911.
It is important to note that all the above information is just that and you should always work with your personal physician on matters of health and wellness. Whether you should begin an aspirin regimen as a preventive measure is a question only your doctor can answer. If you have an issue with ulcers, particularly bleeding ulcers aspirin is probably not your best bet. Understanding the signs of a heart attack and taking appropriate action when you have heart attack symptoms is the best way to stay hale and hearty.