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Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Not all heart
attacks are alike

Did you know you could have a heart attack without feeling
any chest pain? Heart failure and heart disease don’t show the same signs for
everyone, especially women. The heart is a muscle that contracts to pump blood
to the body. A heart
attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t
get enough blood. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. When
there isn’t enough blood flowing to your heart muscle, the affected part can
get damaged or die. This is often called a myocardial
infarction. This is dangerous and sometimes deadly.

Heart attacks happen suddenly, but they normally result from
long-standing heart disease. Typically, a waxy plaque builds up on the walls
inside your blood vessels that feed the heart muscle. Sometimes a chunk of the
plaque, called a blood clot, breaks off and prevents blood from passing through
the vessel to your heart muscle, resulting in a heart attack. Less commonly,
something like stress, physical exertion, or cold weather causes the blood
vessel to contract or spasm, which decreases the amount of blood that can get
to your heart muscle.

There are many risk factors that contribute to having a
heart attack, including:

  • age
  • heredity
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • poor diet
  • excessive alcohol consumption (more than one
    drink per day for women and more than two drinks per day for men on a regular
    basis)
  • stress
  • physical inactivity

A heart attack is a medical emergency. It’s really important
to listen to what your body is telling you if you think you might be having one.
It’s better to seek emergency medical treatment and be wrong than to not get
help when you’re having a heart attack.

Chest pain, pressure, and discomfort

Most people with heart attacks experience some sort of chest
pain or discomfort. But it’s important to understand that chest pains do not
occur in every heart attack. Chest pain is a common sign of a heart attack.
People have described this sensation as feeling like an elephant is standing on
their chest.

Some people don’t describe chest pain as pain at all.
Instead, they may say they felt chest tightness or squeezing. Sometimes this
discomfort can seem bad for a few minutes and then go away. Sometimes the
discomfort comes back hours or even a day later. These could all be signs your
heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen.

If you experience chest pains or tightness, you or someone
around you should call 911 immediately.

Not
just chest pain

Pain and tightness can also radiate in other areas of the
body. Most people associate a heart attack with pain working its way down the
left arm. That can happen, but pain can also appear in other locations,
including:

  • upper abdomen
  • shoulder
  • back
  • neck/throat
  • teeth or jaw

According
to the American
Heart Association, women tend to report heart attacks that cause pain
specifically in the lower abdomen and lower portion of the chest. The pain may
not be concentrated to the chest at all. It could feel like pressure in the
chest and pain in other parts of the body. Upper back pain is another area that
women more commonly cite for causing pain than men.

Sweating day and night

Sweating more than usual — especially if you aren’t
exercising or being active — could be an early warning sign of heart problems.
Pumping blood through clogged arteries takes more effort from your heart, so
your body will sweat more to try to keep your body temperature down during the
extra exertion. If you experience cold sweats or clammy skin, then you should
consult your doctor.

Night sweats are also a common symptom for women
experiencing heart troubles. Women may mistake this symptom as an effect of
menopause. However, if you wake up and your sheets are soaked or you cannot
sleep due to your sweating, this could be a sign of a heart attack, especially
in women.

Fatigue

Fatigue can be a less-commonly recognized heart attack sign
in women. According to the American
Heart Association, some women may even think their heart attack symptoms
are flu-like symptoms.

A heart attack can cause exhaustion due to the extra stress
on your heart to try to pump while an area of blood flow is blocked. If you
often feel tired or exhausted for no reason, it could be a sign that something
is wrong.

Fatigue and shortness of breath are more common in women
than men and may begin months before a heart attack. That’s why it’s important
to see a doctor as early as possible when you experience early signs of
fatigue.

Shortness of breath

Your breathing and your heart pumping blood effectively are
very closely related. Your heart pumps blood so it can circulate to your
tissues as well as get oxygen from your lungs. If your heart can’t pump blood
well (as is the case with a heart attack), you can feel short of breath.

Shortness of breath can sometimes be an accompanying symptom
to unusual fatigue in women. For example, some women report they would get
unusually short of breath and tired for the activity they were performing.
Going to the mailbox could leave them exhausted and unable to catch their
breath. This can be a common sign of heart attack in women.

Lightheadedness

Lightheadedness or dizziness can occur with a heart attack
and are often symptoms women describe. Some women report they feel like they
might pass out if they try to stand up or overexert themselves. This sensation
is certainly not a normal feeling and shouldn’t be ignored if you experience
it.

Heart palpitations

Heart palpitations can range in symptoms from feeling like
your heart is skipping a beat to having changes in heart rhythm that can feel
like your heart is pounding or throbbing. Your heart and body rely on a
consistent, steady beat to best move blood throughout your body. If the beat
gets out of rhythm, this could be a sign you’re having a heart attack.

Heart palpitations due to heart attack can create a sense of
unease or anxiety, especially in women. Some people may describe heart
palpitations as a sensation their heart is pounding in their neck, not just
their chest.

Changes in your heart’s rhythm shouldn’t be ignored, because
once the heart is consistently out of rhythm, it requires medical intervention
to get back into rhythm. If your palpitations are accompanied by dizziness,
chest pressure, chest pain, or fainting, they could be confirmation that a
heart attack is occurring.

Indigestion,
nausea, and vomiting

Often people begin experiencing mild indigestion and other
gastrointestinal problems before a heart attack. Because heart attacks usually
occur in older people who typically have more indigestion problems, these
symptoms can get dismissed as heartburn or another food-related complication.

If you normally have an iron stomach, indigestion or heartburn
could be a signal that something else is going on.

What you should do
during a heart attack

If you think you are having a heart attack, you or someone
nearby should call emergency services immediately. It is unsafe to drive yourself to the hospital during a heart attack,
so get a ride or call an ambulance.
While you may feel awake and alert
enough to drive, the chest pain could get so severe that you may have trouble
breathing or difficulty thinking clearly.

After you call emergency services

When you call emergency services, the dispatcher may ask you
about the medicines you take and your allergies. If you don’t currently take a
blood thinner and you aren’t allergic to aspirin, the dispatcher may advise you
to chew an aspirin while you’re waiting on medical attention. If you have
nitroglycerin tablets, you may also wish to use these as directed by your
doctor to reduce chest pain.

If you have a list of medications you currently take or any
information about your medical history, you may wish to take this information
with you. It can speed your medical care.

At the hospital

When you arrive at the hospital, you can expect the
emergency medical personnel to take an electrocardiogram
(EKG). This is a pain-free way to measure your heart’s electrical activity.

If you’re having a heart attack, an EKG is performed to look
for unusual electrical patterns in your heart. The EKG can help your doctor
determine if the heart muscle is damaged and what part of your heart was
damaged. A doctor will also likely order a blood draw. If you’re having a heart
attack, your body usually releases certain proteins and enzymes as a result of
the stress to your heart.

If you’re having a heart attack, your doctor will discuss
treatment options with you. Your risk of severe heart damage is lowered if you
start treatment within several hours of developing symptoms.

How to prevent
future heart problems

According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, an estimated 200,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke are preventable. Even
if you have risk factors for heart disease or have already had a heart attack, there
are things you can do to reduce your risk of having a heart attack in the
future.

People who have already had a heart attack should make sure
to take all medications prescribed to them by their doctor. If your doctor
placed cardiac stents to keep your heart vessels open or you had to have bypass
surgery for your heart, taking the medications your doctor prescribed to you
are vital to preventing a heart attack.

Sometimes if you require surgery for another condition, your
doctor may recommend stopping some medications you take for your heart. An
example might be an antiplatelet (anticlot) medication like clopidogrel
(Plavix), prasurgel (Effient), or ticagrelor (Brillinta). Always check with the
doctor you see for your heart before you stop taking any of your medications. It
is unsafe to abruptly stop many medications, and it could increase your risk of
heart attack. 

Posted by: Dr.Health

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