Heart attack: Recognize the signs
A warning sign of a heart attack is increasingly frequent chest discomfort. In fact, chest pain or discomfort is the number one symptom of a heart attack.
Its called chest discomfort because it is not always what you would consider a sharp pain, but more like a pressure or tightness in the chest. It can come and go quickly, or it can present as a dull, but persistent sensation. Typically, it will spread to the arm, neck or back, but for some patients it remains isolated to the chest. Any chest pain should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Other heart attack symptoms include shortness of breath and breaking out in a sweat.
Women can have slightly different symptoms than men, such as discomfort in the shoulder blades or back. Sometimes it is only the onset of nausea and vomiting, or just breaking out into a sweat for no apparent reason.
Anyone who has risk factors for heart blockages is potentially in danger of having a heart attack. This includes people who smoke or have a long history of smoking,
high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels, and a strong family history of early heart disease. A strong family history involves someone with an immediate family member, who at the age of 60 years old or younger, had heart blockages or a heart attack.
With a heart attack, time is of the essence. A heart attack occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become blocked, reducing or eliminating blood flow to the heart muscle. If adequate blood flow isn’t restored quickly, by opening the blocked heart artery, permanent damage to the heart may occur. For this reason, it is important that chest pain always be taken seriously. Most of the damage from a heart attack occurs in the first several hours. Therefore, the earlier you get to the hospital, the better chance you have of surviving a heart attack with less muscle damage.
Anyone who believes they may be experiencing any of the signs of a heart attack - pain in the chest, shortness of breath, and a recurrent discomfort that feels like indigestion – should not ignore the pain. Call 9-1-1 and if you are able, take an aspirin. Emergency Medical Services staff will begin treatment when they arrive at your location and continue care on the way to the hospital.
Dr. Alan Blaker is an interventional cardiologist with McLeod Cardiology.
Chest pain is the number one symptom of a heart attack. Sometimes the pain comes and goes quickly. Sometimes it is a dull but persistent sensation. Either way chest pain is always something that should be checked.
The American Heart Association lists the following common signs and symptoms:
• Pain in the chest, shoulders, neck, arms or jaw;
• Pressure or discomfort
in the chest;
• Shortness of breath;