Signs of impending heart attack include chest discomfort and shortness of breath. But are you aware of the others? A quick reaction can often make all the difference and help you handle a health scare.
A heart attack begins when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Heart attacks are typically caused by a blood clot. They’re also one of the many conditions tied to heart disease.
However, since men and women experience heart attacks differently, there is some confusion over what should or shouldn’t be cause for concern. Here are a few key warning signs of heart attacks that you should always take seriously.
Pain or Discomfort in Your Chest
This is a very common heart attack symptom. Chest pain is the most commonly reported warning sign of impending heart attack or cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, many heart attack sufferers brush off this early warning sign as heartburn or indigestion. While it’s always better to be safe than sorry, the type of chest discomfort that could lead to a heart attack will probably last more than a few minutes or continue to come back even after going away. It also might not always be a sharp pain and could feel more like squeezing or uncomfortable pressure.
Aches in Your Upper Body
While pain in the left arm is commonly associated with having a heart attack, you may also experience aches in other parts of your upper body. You may feel jaw pain and discomfort in your neck, back or stomach. Even if the discomfort isn’t debilitating, don’t ignore what your body might be telling you. Aches in your upper body can be early indicators that allow for medical intervention before it’s too late.
Shortness of Breath
Difficulty catching your breath can occur with or without the presence of chest discomfort and could be an indicator that your body is experiencing blood circulation problems. This is especially concerning if you experience shortness of breath while your body is at rest.
If you can’t manage to get your breathing under control after a few short minutes, don’t hesitate any longer and call 911.
Rapid or Irregular Pulse
This is one of those heart attack warnings you should especially pay attention to when it's accompanied by weakness, dizziness or shortness of breath. It may also signify heart failure or an arrhythmia.
Lightheadedness, Nausea, Vomiting
Since no two heart attacks are the same, it’s also not uncommon for patients to simply report feeling “off” or “funny.” This might involve feeling lightheaded, nauseated or breaking out in a cold sweat. Trust your intuition and if your body isn’t feeling “right,” seek help immediately.
In a situation that could put your life in danger, don’t worry about overreacting to potential symptoms.
If you think you are having a heart attack and it turns out you aren’t, the worst thing that will happen is you’ll be wrong. If you don’t think you are having a heart attack and you are, brushing off symptoms could potentially lead to death. Pay attention to the warning signs and always err on the side of caution.
This is especially true If you've been diagnosed with heart disease. If you feel any of these signs coming on, you should talk to your doctor. It’s also important to understand your risk factors for heart attack, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, especially if you’ve had heart problems in the past.
Being aware of heart attack warning signs will help you in an emergency, but eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising will decrease your overall risk.
For a quick summary of the symptoms of heart attacks in men and women and what to do if someone you know experiences them, check out this infographic.