It can strike at a moment’s notice. Heart attacks can be deadly, but understanding the warning signs can help save your life. People think heart attacks are chest grabbing episodes that happen suddenly and without warning, but that’s not always the case.
There are signs that a heart attack is happening or about to happen that don’t match what you see on television and movies. They can be subtle, so you may not think of it as it happens. This article will help you understand the lesser-known signs of a heart attack.
What is a Heart Attack?
Your heart pumps blood throughout your body from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head. It feeds oxygen to your organs and brains, so you can function at an optimal level.
Over time, plaque from cholesterol can build up in these veins to the heart and decrease the blood flow or block it off completely. This can damage the heart and lead to a heart attack also known as a myocardial infarction.
Heart attacks can be mild or major depending on what artery is clogged and by how much. Symptoms of a heart attack can vary not only from person to person but also between males and females.
Common Issues Leading Up to a Heart Attack
Unless you have a heart abnormality, the opportunity for a heart attack occurs mid-life and later. The years leading up to mid-life have a direct impact on your chances of having a heart attack. If you are overweight and have a sedentary lifestyle, then you increase the chances.
There may be a genetic link to heart disease. You can have high cholesterol and high blood pressure. If you smoke or have diabetes, then you can be at a higher risk for a heart attack.
Signs of a Heart Attack in Men
While women tend to get heart attacks post-menopause, men can get them much earlier. The most common symptom for men is the telltale chest pain, but it may not be severe. It could be a dull ache rather than an intense pain.
The heart is located in the center of the chest, but since it pumps blood to the entire body, symptoms can vary including back pain that gradually moves up to the neck and lightheaded or dizziness.
It can be an intense jaw pain that feels more like a toothache, cold sweat, and nausea. One of the most common symptoms, which tend to occur before others, is shortness of breath.
A symptom many people associate with having a heart attack is a pain in the left arm. The reality is the pain, while common to the left arm, can be present in the right arm or both.
Signs of a Heart Attack in Women
Women have their own set of symptoms when it comes to a heart attack. They tend to experience chest pain in the upper abdomen, or they may have no chest pain at all. They are often fatigued for several days prior to the onset of the heart attacks.
They also have back pain, but it’s more of a tingling, burning or pressure rather than traditional pain that men have. They also have the neck and jaw pain, nausea and shortness of breath.
Many of their symptoms can be mistaken for the common cold or flu, but if they happen suddenly, then go to the emergency room.
What Happens When You Call 911 for a Heart Attack
If you believe you’re having a heart attack, the first thing you should do is contact 911 and tell them you’re having chest pains, etc. They’ll have specific instruction for you until the ambulance arrives.
The paramedics will connect you to a portable EKG machine to examine your heart rhythms and verify that your heart is having abnormal beats.
Once at the hospital, you’ll be connected to a more advanced EKG machine and the doctor will examine you. If they believe you’re having a heart attack based on the EKG readings, then they can administer medicine to help stop the heart attack.
Once you’re stabilized, they’ll determine the damage to your heart and if you’ll need a stint, open heart or other surgeries to make sure you do not have another heart attack.
EKG Machines Are Critical To Heart Attack Diagnosis
Without the use of EKG machines to quickly see the heart rhythm of a patient, it would be more difficult to correctly identify a heart attack. They have advanced greatly through the years and not only help diagnose heart attacks but a myriad of other heart-related illnesses as well.
For more information about how EKG machines work, please examine our article on the subject.