Heart Attack Testing: Faq
Q: Why do I have to submit to a bunch of tests?A: Tests help the doctor determine if a heart attack occurred, how much your heart was damaged and what degree of coronary artery disease you might have. The tests screen your heart and help the doctor determine what treatment and lifestyle changes will keep your heart healthy and prevent serious future medical events.
Q: Whats the difference between invasive and non-invasive tests?A: Non-invasive cardiac tests measure your hearts activity through external imaging and electrocardiography. Invasive tests include drawing and testing samples of your blood, and inserting and threading a thin hollow tube called a catheter into a blood vessel to get an inside view.
Q: How can I learn more about the tests that may be performed?A: These diagnostic tests and procedures can reveal if you had a heart attack, how much damage was done and what degree of coronary artery disease you have.
Q: What types of treatment will I get after the hospital diagnoses my heart attack?A: If youve had a heart attack, you may have already had undergone certain procedures to help you survive your heart attack. Those same procedures can help to diagnose your condition. Such procedures include:
What’s The Difference Between A Cardiac Arrest And A Heart Attack
The phrases cardiac arrest and heart attack are often confused, however are different.If youre having a cardiac arrest you will be unconscious, not breathing or not breathing normally. Your heart has stopped pumping blood around your body and youll need CPR and medical attention immediately. During a heart attack you’ll be conscious and breathing, but experiencing chest pain or discomfort.A heart attack is a medical emergency and can lead to cardiac arrest so its important to seek medical attention straight away.
Women’s Health: Can Holiday Stress Lead To A Heart Attack
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and chaos that accompany the holiday season each year. For some women, their busy lives become even more hectic, as additional shopping, cooking and spending combine to add even more anxiety. The result can be overwhelming. In addition, women often ignore the symptoms of heart disease and put the health needs of friends and family before their own.
Take a moment to view this American Heart Association video about what may seem like a typical morning family routine:
This portrayal may seem a little over the top, but many people take pride in being able to accomplish a multitude of tasks and trying to be everything to everyone. However, this can negatively affect physical and mental health, especially if one’s personal health is ignored.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer for men and women. More women die of heart disease than of breast cancer. Taking care of heart health is important, and that includes avoiding risk factors or behaviors that lead to heart disease, recognizing symptoms of heart disease and seeking treatment for heart disease.
Risk factors for heart disease
Traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking cigarettes and obesity. In addition, nontraditional risk factors, such as stress, anxiety and depression, also affect heart health.
How does stress lead to heart attacks?
Research is ongoing in other heart disease risk factors in women.
Managing holiday stress
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Early Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
The sooner you get help for a heart attack, the better your chances for a complete recovery. Unfortunately, many people hesitate to get help, even if they suspect theres something wrong.
Doctors, however, overwhelmingly encourage people to get help if they suspect theyre experiencing early heart attack symptoms.
Even if youre wrong, going through some testing is better than suffering long-term heart damage or other health issues because you waited too long.
Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person and even from one heart attack to another. The important thing is to trust yourself. You know your body better than anyone. If something feels wrong, get emergency care right away.
According to the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care, early heart attack symptoms occur in 50 percent of all people who have heart attacks. If youre aware of the early symptoms, you may be able get treatment quickly enough to prevent heart damage.
Eighty-five percent of heart damage happens in the first two hours following a heart attack.
Early symptoms of heart attack can include the following:
- mild pain or discomfort in your chest that may come and go, which is also called stuttering chest pain
- pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw
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 |
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Chest Tightness As Well As Pains Elsewhere In The Body Are Among The Most Common Heart Attack Symptoms In Men
Heart attack symptoms in men vary, from cold sweats to chest pain to lightheadedness.
Up until around age 55, men are much more likely than women to experience a heart attack. The gap gets smaller with advancing age, but men are still at a higher risk than women of suffering a heart attack. For that reason alone, its important that you recognize the common heart attack symptoms in men.
Below, we look at five heart attack symptoms in men:
- Chest pain
- Aches and pains in the upper body, including both arms
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweats and dizziness
- Anxiety accompanied by a racing pulse.
These heart problems in men require treatment see the section below titled What to Do Once You Notice Heart Attack Symptoms.
Heart Attack Symptoms In Men #: Upper
After chest pain, the next most common heart attack warning signs are aches and pains elsewhere in the upper body. You might have pain running down one or both arms. You may also feel pain below your chest or up in your neck and jaw.
With heart attacks in men, some report that these pains start in the chest and radiate outward. For others, however, there is little or no chest pain. But there might be pain elsewhere. It makes it difficult to self-diagnose, which is why men who experience some of these symptoms should seek emergency medical help.
Also, chest pain and other signs of a heart attack in men may last for several minutes and then disappear. They may come and goa very likely sign that something is wrong and should be evaluated.
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Heart Attack In Women Over 50
Women experience significant physical changes around age 50, the age when many women start to go through menopause. During this period of life, your levels of the hormone estrogen drop. Estrogen is believed to help protect the health of your heart. After menopause, your risk of heart attack increases.
Unfortunately, women who experience a heart attack are less likely to survive than men. Therefore, it becomes even more important to remain conscious of your heart health after you go through menopause.
There are additional symptoms of a heart attack that women over the age of 50 may experience. These symptoms include:
- severe chest pain
Why Some Heart Attacks Are Silent
There are a number of explanations as to why some people have silent heart attacks even when the area of damage is significant. Among them:
- Some people simply have higher pain thresholds and may not regard the symptoms as particularly worrisome.
- Certain medical conditions, especially diabetes and chronic kidney disease, can affect the nerves that carry pain signals and, as a result, reduce symptoms of angina .
- Cardiac ischemia can sometimes produce atypical symptoms, especially in women. Instead of angina, a person may only experience shortness of breath or other non-specific symptoms not readily attributed to the heart.
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When To See A Doctor
The British Heart Foundation recommend all women over 40 years of age have regular checks with their doctor. This helps identify risk factors early so that they can be treated. Early intervention reduces the chances of a cardiac event.
Anyone who notices the warning signs of a heart attack, such as the following, should see a doctor immediately:
- unusual fatigue
- shortness of breath
- upper body pain
A doctor will note symptoms, check blood pressure and heart rate, and may order blood tests or use an electrocardiogram to see the hearts electrical activity.
Only 65 percent of women would call emergency services if they suspected they were having a heart attack, according to a 2012 survey .
Emergency treatment can save lives. Anyone noticing the following symptoms should call an ambulance immediately, especially if the signs are present for 5 minutes or more:
- chest pain or discomfort
- pain in the upper body, including arms, back, neck, jaw, or shoulder
- difficulty breathing
About Half Of All Heart Attacks Are Mistaken For Less Serious Problems And Can Increase Your Risk Of Dying From Coronary Artery Disease
You can have a heart attack and not even know it. A silent heart attack, known as a silent myocardial infarction , account for 45% of heart attacks and strike men more than women.
They are described as “silent” because when they occur, their symptoms lack the intensity of a classic heart attack, such as extreme and pressure stabbing pain in the arm, neck, or jaw sudden shortness of breath sweating, and dizziness.
“SMI symptoms can feel so mild, and be so brief, they often get confused for regular discomfort or another less serious problem, and thus men ignore them,” says Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of the vascular disease prevention program at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
For instance, men may feel fatigue or physical discomfort and chalk it up to overwork, poor sleep, or some general age-related ache or pain. Other typical symptoms like mild pain in the throat or chest can be confused with gastric reflux, indigestion, and .
Also, the location of pain is sometimes misunderstood. With SMI, you may feel discomfort in the center of the chest and not a sharp pain on the left side of the chest, which many people associate with a heart attack. “People can even feel completely normal during an SMI and afterward, too, which further adds to the chance of missing the warning signs,” says Dr. Plutzky.
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Angina And Heart Attacks
Angina is a syndrome caused by the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart becoming restricted.
People with angina can experience similar symptoms to a heart attack, but they usually happen during exercise and pass within a few minutes.
However, occasionally, people with angina can have a heart attack. It’s important to recognise the difference between the symptoms of angina and those of a heart attack. The best way to do this is to remember that the symptoms of angina can be controlled with medicine, but symptoms of a heart attack cannot.
If you have angina, you may have been prescribed medicine that improves your symptoms within 5 minutes. If the first dose does not work, a second dose can be taken after 5 minutes, and a third dose after a further 5 minutes.
If the pain persists, despite taking 3 doses of glyceryl trinitrate over 15 minutes, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
Page last reviewed: 28 November 2019 Next review due: 28 November 2022
Heart Attack Types And Diagnosis
A heart attack is also called a myocardial infarction, sometimes simply referred to as an MI. A heart attack occurs when a blockage in one or more coronary arteries reduces or stops blood flow to the heart, which starves part of the heart muscle of oxygen.
The blood vessel blockage might be complete or partial:
- A complete blockage of a coronary artery means you suffered a STEMI heart attack which stands for ST-elevation myocardial infarction.
- A partial blockage translates to an NSTEMI heart attack a non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction.
Diagnostic steps differ for STEMI and NSTEMI heart attacks, although there can be some overlap.
Remember: Never try to diagnose yourself. Always dial 911 if you think you might be having a heart attack. The EMS crew in your ambulance will route you to the right hospital based on your location.
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Why To Call 911
You may feel hesitant to call 911 when you arent certain that youre having a heart attack. You might try the wait-and-see approach instead, or you might consider going to the hospital by car.
If youre truly having a heart attack, the quickest way to get help is calling 911. Youll receive care as soon as EMTs arrive, and people who arrive by ambulance to the emergency department for heart attacks are seen sooner than people who arrive by car. Damage to the heart muscle may occur within the first 90 minutes after a heart attack, so getting prompt care is essential, even if you arent entirely certain that what youre experiencing is a heart attack.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.
Heart Attacks In Older Adults
Many older adults may not experience chest pain during heart attacks, particularly those with diabetes. Older people may have silent heart attacks, or they may notice mild symptoms, including:
- Feeling fatigued or tired
- Shortness of breath
Sometimes, older adults experience some of the milder heart-attack symptoms that women experience, like heartburn, nausea or sweating.
If youre concerned that you could be having a heart attack because of these milder symptoms, call 911 to get checked out. Even if youre only having trouble catching your breath especially if you havent done anything to physically exert yourself its worthwhile to investigate.
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Chew One Aspirin If Recommended
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to take an aspirin.
Aspirin may help to slow or reduce clotting and blockage around the site of a ruptured plaque deposit in your artery. This can limit damage to your heart and help save your life.
But aspirin won’t cure a heart attack or make your symptoms go away, so never delay calling 911 to take an aspirin.
You may be told not to take aspirin if you take a medication that can interact with it.
What Is The Difference Between A Mild And Massive Heart Attack
Heart attacks occur when there is a blockage in the artery that impedes the flow of blood into the heart. A massive heart attack may happen if blood flow is completely cut off by the blockage and can cause permanent heart damage, cardiac arrest, or death. Massive heart attacks may also occur if the blockage is impeding blood flow in a larger artery.
In comparison, a mild heart attack either occurs when there is a blockage in one of the smaller arteries of the heart or the blockage does not completely stop the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Mild heart attacks may also cause damage to a smaller portion of the heart, less of which is permeant. Finally, mild heart attacks do not last as long as massive heart attacks.
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Women And Heart Attack Warning Signs
Women may experience any of the heart attack warning signs. However, they can sometimes experience heart attacks slightly differently to men:
- the pain is more likely to spread as far as the shoulders, neck, abdomen and even the back
- the pain may feel more like indigestion and not be consistent
- there may not be pain but unexplained anxiety, nausea, dizziness, palpitations and cold sweat
Women may also experience unexplained tiredness prior to developing other heart attack symptoms.
You Get Exhausted Easily
If you suddenly feel fatigued or winded after doing something you had no problem doing in the past — like climbing the stairs or carrying groceries from the car — make an appointment with your doctor right away.
“These types of significant changes are more important to us than every little ache and pain you might be feeling,” Bufalino says.
Extreme exhaustion or unexplained weakness, sometimes for days at a time, can be a symptom of heart disease, especially for women.
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Lifestyle Changes To Improve Heart Health Include:
- Regular exercise.
- Monitoring low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and changing diet accordingly.
- Discontinuing the use of tobacco products.
- Consuming plenty of leafy green vegetables, while monitoring sodium, sugar and saturated fat intake.
- Eating a variety of other heart-healthy foods throughout the week .
- Implementing stress-management techniques .
If you have already suffered a heart attack, or you are concerned that you are at risk for having one, contact Tri-City Cardiology today at 480-835-6100or, if you prefer, just to use our online contact form. We will evaluate your risks, schedule a health screening to identify any existing blockages and, if necessary, begin treatment to prevent a cardiac event. Let our experienced board-certified cardiologists evaluate your heart, address any cardiac issues you have to put your mind at ease.