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Knowing how to spot heart attack symptoms is a vital skill for everyone. Heart attacks are the biggest killers in the world, affecting 1 in 3 Americans at some point in their lives. Heart attacks prove fatal for 1 in 10 if the victim can get to a hospital if not the chances of survival can be as low as 1 in 2.
Those are intimidating statistics and highlight the importance of a speedy and accurate response to a heart attack. In polls, most Americans couldn’t accurately describe the common symptoms of heart attacks. Chest pains (present in about 80% of heart attacks) were commonly identified, but plenty more weren’t. This ignorance costs lives and the quality of lives.
In order to understand how to spot heart attack symptoms, it helps to understand what a heart attack is and what causes them. A heart attack (or myocardial infarction), is where one or more of the main blood vessels leading to the heart become blocked, cutting off the blood supply to the muscles and tissues of the heart.
When the blood supply is cut off or limited, the heart does not receive the necessary oxygen it needs and begins to die after only a few minutes. Permanent damage can occur in the brain and heart tissues after only 4 minutes, and after 20 to 40 minutes, it is irreparably damaged. This is usually fatal.
Even if you do survive, the damaged heart tissue is replaced by scar tissue, limiting the power of the heart and causing many problems for the sufferer. Tissue damage in the heart is currently impossible to repair fully, so the longer a person goes without treatment in a hospital, the more irreparable damage they are suffering. Should they survive, their quality of life can have been massively reduced due to the damage sustained?
With this in mind, knowing how to spot heart attack symptoms early can make a huge difference to the survival and post-treatment quality of a heart attack victim. If they can get appropriate medical care within an hour (known by doctors as the “golden hour”) of the onset of symptoms, their chance of survival is hugely increased.
If you think you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call the emergency services immediately.
The following guide is not definitive; the emergency responder will take you through the signs and symptoms to help you diagnose.
If you are in any doubt, get help.
With women being up to seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed with a heart attack than men in an emergency department, clearly, even the professionals can and do get it wrong. The important point to stress here is that if any of the following symptoms are found together, or are intense or unusual, don’t take a chance with your health, call an ambulance or go straight to an emergency department.
Any or none of these heart attack symptoms can be present during a heart attack, so if in doubt, call the emergency services or ask someone to do so for you. If they respond and it is not a heart attack, they won’t mind. They would much rather you were safe than sorry.
The most common and most commonly recognised heart attack symptom is the onset of slight chest discomfort, which can become very intense. Commonly described as a feeling of being squeezed, a tight pressure or the state of fullness. This sensation is felt in the center of the chest and can last a few minutes before fading and coming back.
This is commonly misdiagnosed as indigestion. If you do not commonly suffer from indigestion, assume it could be a heart attack. If you do suffer from indigestion, pay attention to the feeling closely to see if it is any different, if it moves or is accompanied by any of the other symptoms detailed here.
Heart attack symptoms often include shooting pain, diffuse pain and/or tingling in parts of the upper body, including arms, shoulders, upper chest, neck and jaw. These can spread, change in location and intensity. Many women do not suffer these symptoms, making it harder to diagnose in females.
Heart attacks are often accompanied by shortness of breath or wheezing. Fainting or dizziness can accompany these symptoms.
Nausea, lightheadedness, cold sweats and/or an intense feeling of anxiety or dread can accompany any of these symptoms in any combination.
For many, even if the person has had a heart attack before, these symptoms might not be recognisable as the symptoms can be completely different from one heart attack to the next.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call the emergency services and ask for an ambulance. If anyone else you are with is showing symptoms, do the same.
A timely response will save lives.
There is a slight difference between men and women in heart attack response. Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed by even medical professionals because they often do not display the symptoms commonly suffered by males. The intense squeezing sensation and pain in the chest are often not present in a female heart attack. The symptoms of nausea, lightheadedness, cold sweating, fainting, extreme fatigue or pressure in the upper back are the most common signs.
Unfortunately, these are often the symptoms of many other conditions. They feel like a stressful day to some. This leads to many women not responding to their symptoms properly and not receiving adequate medical treatment as a result. In many cases, it is only when the woman has lost consciousness that an ambulance is called. This is usually some time after the first onset of symptoms and has too often taken the patient over the “golden hour” threshold in which they could expect a much higher rate of survival and recovery.
For this reason, women at risk of a heart attack should respond seriously to any of the above symptoms. For women risk factors include diabetes, smoking, obesity. Also over 65’s, sufferers from mental health issues and those with a family history of heart disease have increased the danger of cardiac arrest.
Roughly one-quarter of heart attacks happen without any noticeable symptoms. This does not mean that they are less dangerous. A silent heart attack causes the same amount of damage and can be fatal, but are much harder to spot.
The mild symptoms of some of these heart attacks are the symptoms of daily life. However, if a person is suffering from unusual fatigue, nausea, lightheadedness or even a strange feeling of anxiety, these can be telltale signs and should be taken seriously.
If in doubt, call the emergency services and ask for an ambulance. Do not take a risk with your health if you see any of the above symptoms.
By seeking regular health checks and knowing the signs of a heart attack, a person at risk can hugely reduce their risk of both suffering from a heart attack and not receiving adequate treatment if one were to occur. CBD offers an all natural, non-intrusive way to protect your heart, however, studies are still ongoing.
Some heart attacks can have few symptoms and not prove fatal or cause unconsciousness. They can be very damaging, however, and a checkup with a doctor can reveal this and prevent further damage.
Many insurers are making a regular health check obligatory for cheaper cover, this opportunity should be seized when possible. A doctor will be able to tell you whether you are at risk and what the chances of you suffering a heart attack will be. Precautions can then be made and your risk reduced.