Catch The Signs Early
Dont wait to get help if you experience any of these heart attack warning signs. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call 911 if you experience:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs. Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Download the common heart attack warning signs infographic |
Living With A Heart Attack
After youve had a heart attack, you are at higher risk of having another one. Your doctor will likely recommend heart-healthy lifestyle changes to help reduce your risk. They include:
- Maintaining a heart-healthy diet.
- Being physically active.
- Quitting smoking.
Symptoms during a second heart attack may be different than the first one. If you have any new symptoms of heart attack or are in any doubt, call 911. Early treatment is the key to surviving a heart attack.
What Are The Risk Factors For Heart Attack
Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack. These are called risk factors. About half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking.2
Some risk factors cannot be controlled, such as your age or family history. But you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control.
Learn more about risk factors for heart disease and heart attack.
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Heart With Muscle Damage And A Blocked Artery
A less common cause of heart attack is a severe spasm of a coronary artery. The spasm cuts off blood flow through the artery. Spasms can occur in coronary arteries that aren’t affected by atherosclerosis.
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats. Ventricular fibrillation is a life-threatening arrhythmia that can cause death if not treated right away.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
Symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Angina: Chest pain or discomfort in the center of the chest also described as a heaviness, tightness, pressure, aching, burning, numbness, fullness or squeezing feeling that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It is sometimes mistakenly thought to be indigestion or heartburn.
- Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body including the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Trouble breathing or feeling shortness of breath.
- Sweating or “cold sweat.”
- Rapid or irregular heart beats.
If you are having any of these symptoms and they last for more than 5 minutes, SEEK EMERGENCY TREATMENT WITHOUT DELAY. These symptoms could be the signs of a heart attack and you need to get treatment as soon as possible.
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Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection
SCAD is a type of heart attack that happens when the inner lining of a coronary artery tears for no clear reason, slowing or blocking blood flow down the artery.
SCAD can occur in otherwise healthy people who do not have the typical risk factors of heart disease. And according to an article in Clinical Cardiology , about 90% of SCADs happen to women between the age of 30 and 60.
How Is An Mi Diagnosed
Your doctor examines you and asks about your immediate symptoms and your medical history. Your doctor may order any of the following tests:
- EKG to show the electrical activity of your heart
- Blood tests to find out if the heart muscle has been damaged
- Chest x-ray can show abnormal heart size and signs of heart failure
- Echocardiogram to examine your heart valves, muscles, and blood flow and to look at how efficiently your heart is pumping
- Coronary angiogram an x-ray procedure in which dye is used to find out which blood vessel is blocked and how severely.
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Take Steps To Protect Your Heart
Know your risks. Some people are more likely to have a heart attack than others. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, they include people who smoke, eat an unhealthy diet that is high in saturated and trans fats and sodium, lead a sedentary lifestyle and don’t exercise, as well as people who have health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar due to diabetes or insulin resistance. A family history of heart disease is also a risk factor.
But there are plenty of preventive steps people can take to reduce their risk of having a heart attack. Here’s what that entails:
Eat a heart-healthy diet. Fill your plate with fresh vegetables and lean proteins, and choose whole grains over processed grains. Limit added sugars, salt and saturated and trans fats. Use these tips from the USDA’s Choose My Plate project to help simplify positive changes:
Get Moving. Remove the risk associated with a sedentary lifestyle by finding ways to get physical. Start with a walk around your neighborhood, local school track or shopping mall. Walk a little farther and for a longer period of time each day. Increase your level of physical activity gradually to build up to at least a half-hour on most days every week, the AHA advises. Check in with your doctor to ask about risks or special considerations based on your health history.
What Does Depression Have To Do With A Heart Attack
Depression is common after a heart attack. As many as 1 out of every 3 people who have had a heart attack report feelings of depression. People with a higher risk of depression after a heart attack include:
- People who have had depression before.
- People who feel alone and without social or emotional support.
Many people who have depression dont recognize it. They dont seek help or get treatment. Being depressed can make it harder for you to recover physically. Depression can be treated.
Some people have anxiety after a heart attack, fearing it will happen again. Talk to your doctor about your feelings so that you can manage or reduce your anxiety.
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Warning Signs Of A Heart Attack
Not all heart attacks are alike
Did you know that you can have a heart attack without feeling any chest pain? Heart failure and heart disease dont show the same signs for everyone, especially women.
The heart is a muscle that contracts to pump blood throughout the body. A heart attack occurs when the heart muscle doesnt get enough blood. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. When there isnt enough blood flowing to your heart muscle, the affected part can get damaged or die. 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:
A heart attack is a medical emergency. Its really important to listen to what your body is telling you if you think you might be having one. Its better to seek emergency medical treatment and be wrong than to not get help when youre having a heart attack.
How A Heart Attack Affects Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the inside walls of your arteries as it circulates throughout the body. Just as heart rate changes are unpredictable during a heart attack, so too are blood pressure changes.
Because blood flow in the heart is blocked and a portion of heart tissue is denied oxygen-rich blood, your heart may not be able to pump as strongly as it normally does, thus lowering your blood pressure.
A heart attack may also trigger a response from your parasympathetic nervous system, causing your heart and the rest of your body to relax and not fight while your heart struggles to keep blood circulating. This can also cause a dip in blood pressure.
On the other hand, the pain and stress from the heart attack can raise the blood pressure during a heart attack.
Risk factors for a heart attack include modifiable factors, such as your weight, as well as those beyond your control, such as your age. Some of the most common conditions that raise your risk for a heart attack include:
- advancing age
Signs Symptoms And Complications
Not all heart attacks begin with the sudden, crushing chest pain that often is shown on TV or in the movies. In one study, for example, one-third of the patients who had heart attacks had no chest pain. These patients were more likely to be older, female, or diabetic.
The symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person. Some people can have few symptoms and are surprised to learn they’ve had a heart attack. If you’ve already had a heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same for another one. It is important for you to know the most common symptoms of a heart attack and also remember these facts:
- Heart attacks can start slowly and cause only mild pain or discomfort. Symptoms can be mild or more intense and sudden. Symptoms also may come and go over several hours.
- People who have high blood sugar may have no symptoms or very mild ones.
- The most common symptom, in both men and women, is chest pain or discomfort.
- Women are somewhat more likely to have shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, unusual tiredness , and pain in the back, shoulders, and jaw.
Some people don’t have symptoms at all. Heart attacks that occur without any symptoms or with very mild symptoms are called silent heart attacks.
What Causes A Heart Attack
A heart attack occurs when part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies from lack of oxygen. When a blockage occurs in your coronary arteries, blood and oxygen dont get to the heart. This can lead to a heart attack if it isnt treated quickly
Most heart attacks are a result of coronary heart or artery disease. A waxy substance called plaque builds up in the arteries. This is called atherosclerosis. It takes years for the plaque to build up. When the plaque breaks up, it travels through the blood stream. This creates blood clots. The clots slow or stop blood flow to the heart. Then the heart doesnt get enough oxygen. The tissue not receiving the oxygen begins to die.
Risk factors for a heart attack include:
- Gender. More men have heart attacks. But heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women.
A less common cause of heart attack is a severe spasm, or tightening, of a coronary artery. This can happen in an artery that doesnt have plaque build-up. Instead, the tightening cuts off the blood flow. Spasms arent as well understood as a cause for heart attack. They seem to be related to:
- Taking specific drugs, such as cocaine.
- Cigarette smoking.
- Severe emotional pain or stress.
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When Do I Do If Someone Else Has A Heart Attack
An easy-to-use device called an AED is available in many public places and can be used by almost anyone to treat cardiac arrest. This device works by shocking the heart back into a normal rhythm.
Hereâs how to use an AED:
1. Check responsiveness
- For an adult or older child, shout and shake the person to confirm whether theyâre unconscious. Do not use AED on a conscious person.
- For an infant or young child, pinch their skin. Never shake a young child.
- Check breathing and pulse. If absent or uneven, prepare to use the AED as soon as possible.
2. Prepare to use AED
- Make sure the person is in a dry area and away from puddles or water.
- Check for body piercings or outline of an implanted medical device, such as a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator.
- AED pads must be placed at least 1 inch away from piercings or implanted devices.
3. Use AED
For newborns, infants, and children up to age 8, use a pediatric AED, if possible. If not, use an adult AED.
- Turn on the AED.
- Plug in connector, if necessary.
- Make sure no one is touching the person.
- Push the âAnalyzeâ button.
- If a shock is advised, check again to make sure no one is touching the person.
- Push the âShockâ button.
- Start or resume continue compressions.
- Follow AED prompts.
4. Continue CPR
Waiting For An Ambulance
It may be helpful to take an aspirin tablet, ideally 300 milligrams, while waiting for an ambulance. A person can take an aspirin tablet if they do not have an allergy to it and if a doctor or member of the emergency services team has recommended it.
Aspirin is a blood-thinning medication that may help restore some blood flow to the heart.
A person should make sure that they have taken any prescribed heart medication as instructed while they are waiting for the ambulance to arrive. These medications may include nitroglycerin or beta-blockers.
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Heart Attack Symptoms In Women
Heart disease is not a mans disease.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women. It is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
One in thirty-one US women die from cancer each year. One in three die from a heart attack annually.
Protect yourself by knowing your risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, smoking, menstruation has stopped, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, and family history of arteriosclerotic heart disease before age 60.
According to Dr. Larry Weinrauch, very few pre-menopausal women have heart attacks, unless they smoke, have diabetes, or are on birth control pills for a long period of time. Smoking seems to be the biggest risk factor.
Heart disease symptoms can be different for women than men, which can lead to misdiagnosis and/or delayed treatment.
Heart attack warning signs for women:
What Does A Heart Attack Feel Like
Some of the sensations you may feel during a heart attack include:
- Chest pain that can range from mild to severe, or an uncomfortable pressure, tightness, squeezing or heaviness in your chest. The discomfort can last more than a few minutes at a time and sometimes goes away for a short time but returns later.
- Pain or a sensation of being squeezed that starts in the upper back.
- Pain that starts from your left shoulder and arm, and goes into other areas such as your back, jaw, neck or right arm.
- Pain that feels like heartburn or indigestion.
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Is There Anything That Distinguishes These Symptoms How Do You Know When Those Subtle Atypical Symptoms Are Concerning
Its important to know your risk for heart disease in order to assess early symptoms. Dr. Xu says when he works with a patient, they discuss his or her family and personal history, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, age and disease history to determine a risk level for heart attacks.
Within this context of risk, they talk about symptoms. Are they typical or not? How are they experienced? At rest or during exertion? Are they associated with emotional stress or cold weather? Are they happening in conjunction with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat or cold sweats? This is the starting point for a treatment plan.
Heart Attack Warning Signs And Symptoms
Recognising the symptoms of a heart attack and calling Triple Zero could save your life or the life of a loved one. Its important that everyone, both male and female, know the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack, because early treatment is vital. The longer a blockage is left untreated, the more damage occurs. The most common heart attack warning signs are:
- Chest discomfort or pain . This can feel like uncomfortable pressure, aching, numbness, squeezing, fullness or pain in your chest. This discomfort can spread to your arms, neck, jaw or back. It can last for several minutes or come and go
- Dizziness, light-headedness, feeling faint or feeling anxious
- Nausea, indigestion, vomiting
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing with or without chest discomfort
- Sweating or a cold sweat.
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Your Heart Rate Isnt Always Predictable
How this cardiac event affects the heart rate isnt always predictable.
Certain medications may slow your heart rate
For example, if youre on a medication that slows your heart rate, such as a beta-blocker for heart disease, your heart rate may remain slow during a heart attack. Or if you have a type of heart rhythm disturbance called bradycardia, in which your heart rate is perpetually slower than normal, a heart attack may do nothing to increase the rate.
There are certain types of heart attacks that can lead to an abnormal slowing of the heart rate because they affect the electrical tissue cells of the heart.
Tachycardia may speed your heart rate
On the other hand, if you have tachycardia, in which your heart always or frequently beats abnormally fast, then that pattern could continue during a heart attack. Or, certain types of heart attacks can cause the heart rate to increase.
Finally, if you have some other condition thats causing your heart to beat fast, such as sepsis or infection, then it could be causing the stress on your heart rather than being a result of the blockage to blood flow.
Many people live with tachycardia and have no other symptoms or complications. However, if you consistently have a rapid resting heart rate, you should absolutely have your cardiovascular health evaluated.
- a vague sense of impending doom
If you think you or a loved one may be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.