The “Hollywood” Heart Attack – the kind where you clutch your chest and dramatically collapse to the ground like in the movies, is the exception, not the rule. Heart attacks and other cardiac conditions affect more than 1 in 4 families. It’s important to know all of the types of symptoms that can indicate a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is reduced or completely stopped. It is usually a result of a condition called atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up on artery walls, limiting blood flow to the heart. The blockage can occur slowly over time or suddenly if total blockage occurs or a piece of the plaque breaks off.
One reason there may be no warning signs or only subtle warning signs is that sometimes when an artery becomes narrowed, other nearby vessels that also bring blood to the heart expand to help compensate. This way the heart compensates helps protect some people from heart attacks by getting needed blood to the heart.
To understand more about how atherosclerosis develops, click on the link below.
Chest Discomfort – the most common symptom of a heart attack. The pain may not be overwhelming but relatively mild. Don’t ignore the pain! Seek help immediately by calling 911. Don’t take any chances!
Discomfort in other parts of the body – be mindful of any symptom from the waist up which seems different and unusual, including heaviness, pressure, squeezing, aching, or discomfort in the chest, neck, shoulders, or arms, wrists, elbows, aching in the jaw, throat or even the gums or ear lobes.
Symptoms that are particularly intense or happen for no apparent reason. If they get worse with exercise, if they don’t go away, or if they go away and come back, should raise immediate concern.
Stomach pain or nausea
Gastrointestinal symptoms that are uncommon and not related to something recently eaten may be an indicator of a heart attack.
Fatigue and feeling exhausted for several days can also signal a heart attack.
Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
Note that many of these symptoms may not indicate a heart attack. But these warning signs should be taken seriously, particularly if you have a family history of heart disease or personal risk factors, like high blood pressure or diabetes. The only way to know for sure is to get checked out immediately. Don’t take chances!
For a risk assessment for heart attack click the link below.
Adopted from Cohen, E. Would you know if your heart was in trouble? CNN Health, September 20, 2010.