Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. However, many people do not know the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack. In this article, we will discuss the most common and surprising heart attack warning signs so that you can be prepared if it happens to you or someone you love.
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of your heart gets blocked. Without enough oxygen-rich blood, the cells in that part of your heart die and can lead to serious health problems, such as permanent damage to other parts of your body. Heart attacks are usually caused by fatty deposits that build up in the arteries and prevent adequate blood flow, as well as high cholesterol levels, diabetes, smoking cigarettes, drug use and certain existing medical conditions like high blood pressure or coronary artery disease.
The most common warning sign of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. This could be described as a squeezing, tightness, or pressure in the center of your chest. It may also be accompanied by pain or discomfort in other areas such as one or both arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or stomach area. Sometimes, a heart attack can be mistaken for heartburn or an anxiety attack.
Jaw, Neck, or Shoulder Pain
If you experience unusual pain in your jaw, neck or shoulder, it could be a sign of a heart attack. Often, this type of pain is associated with an intense squeezing or tightness around these areas. If you experience shoulder, neck or jaw pain accompanied by other signs and symptoms such as dizziness, weakness or sweating, seek medical attention immediately.
Shortness of Breath
Along with chest pain and discomfort, you may experience shortness of breath before and during a heart attack. Difficulty breathing can be caused by narrowed arteries that are unable to provide enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.
Sweating & Nausea
You may also experience excessive sweating accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting during a heart attack. This is caused by the body’s reaction to the stress of not getting enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.
Some other common symptoms that may indicate a heart attack include lightheadedness, fatigue, irregular heartbeat or palpitations, and dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms or any combination of them, it is important to seek medical help immediately.
How Do Heart Attack Symptoms Differ For Men vs. Women?
When it comes to discussing differences in heart attack symptoms between men and women, it is important to note that while some symptoms may be the same, many of them differ. Women tend to experience a more gradual onset of heart attack signs than men, such as unusual fatigue or shortness of breath, whereas men often experience more immediate signs such as pain or discomfort in the chest area. Additionally, men may feel other sensations in different parts of their bodies including the jaw, neck and back that women generally do not experience when having a heart attack. It is important for both genders to be aware of relevant symptoms so they can seek medical attention quickly if needed.
If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 right away. Time is critical in receiving life-saving treatment for a heart attack, so do not hesitate to get help as soon as possible. By understanding the warning signs of a heart attack and taking action when necessary, you can save your life or even someone else’s. If you would like to learn more about your current health and schedule an annual physical, please visit A-Z Primary Care and Walk-In Clinic.