It’s likely you learned about the human heart during your school days, the organ tirelessly pumping life-sustaining blood throughout your body. But how often do you consider the signs that this crucial organ might be in distress? Just in case you’ve overlooked or forgotten these vital details, let’s go through them again.
Dr. Natalia Hapych, a family doctor with years of experience, offers some invaluable insights into the tell-tale signs of a heart attack.
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Things You Should Know About
A heart attack, another name for myocardial infarction, happens when a portion of your heart muscle doesn’t get sufficient blood. Here’s the scary part, the more additional time that passes without treatment to get the blood flowing again, the more significant the damage to your heart muscle. Heart attacks most often occur as a result of coronary heart disease, which is a condition that sees a buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of the coronary arteries.
Knowing the signs of a heart attack can literally save your life or that of someone else. But before we delve into the red flags, let’s take a moment to grasp why understanding these signs is absolutely essential.
“Time is a muscle,” explains Dr. Hapych. “What that means is that the longer the heart muscle goes without blood, the more damage that can occur. It’s absolutely essential to get medical help at the first signs of a heart attack.”
The 5 Major Heart Attack Red Flags
So, what are these signs that you absolutely need to know? Here they are:
1. Chest Discomfort
Actually, this is the most common symptom of a heart attack. You might feel pressure, a squeezing sensation, or a fullness in the center of your chest. These symptoms can last for a few minutes or go away and come back.
“It’s important to understand that chest pain can manifest differently for different people,” Dr. Hapych clarifies. “In some cases, it’s a severe pain, but in others, it may just feel uncomfortable or strange. Either way, it’s not something to ignore.”
2. Shortness of Breath
If you’re suddenly having trouble breathing, and it’s not due to a known condition such as asthma, it could be a sign that your heart is struggling. This could occur with or without chest discomfort.
3. Pain in other parts of the body
Some people might experience pain or discomfort in one or both arms, neck, jaw, back, or stomach. “Often people don’t connect this pain with a heart attack because it’s not in the chest,” says Dr. Hapych. “But it’s common for a heart attack to cause pain in these areas.”
4. Breaking out in a Cold Sweat
Suddenly breaking out in a cold sweat, especially if it’s accompanied by any of the other symptoms, could also be a sign of a heart attack.
5. Nausea, Lightheadedness, or Vomiting
Feeling nauseous or lightheaded, or actually being sick, can also be symptoms of a heart attack. While these can be associated with many other conditions, if they occur with any of the other signs, call for medical assistance immediately.
Responding to Heart Attack Signs
Recognizing the red flags is the first step. But what should you do when you notice these signs? Dr. Hapych has some advice.
“The most crucial thing to do when you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms is to call for emergency medical help immediately,” Dr. Hapych insists. “Don’t ignore these signs or hope they’ll go away. It’s far better to seek help and find out it’s not a heart attack than to ignore it and suffer severe consequences.”
Further Reading: Symptoms of Heart Attacks in Women