That was a Heart Attack?
We’ve all seen it on screen: some old guy suddenly stands up from his dinner table clutching his chest, then dramatically hits the floor.
While this kind of heart attack makes for great viewing, it can also keep us from recognizing a real heart attack when it happens.
In reality, many heart attacks begin with mild symptoms which can come on very slowly. In some cases, there’s not even any chest pain. It’s very common for someone who’s previously had a heart attack not to realize that they’re having another one: the symptoms can be completely different.
This is why it’s important never to second guess ourselves or expect Hollywood drama. If there’s even a chance it might be a heart attack, we should call 911.
What Warning Signs Should I Look For?
Pain or discomfort in the center of your chest – this is the most common symptom, usually lasting more than a few minutes.
Pain in your upper body – the pressure or tightness can spread from your chest to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or jaw. You may not feel anything wrong in your chest at all.
Pain in your stomach – this can feel a lot like heartburn.
Shortness of breath – this be one of the first signs, and may be followed by chest pain.
Anxiety – it’s easy to dismiss a heart attack as a panic attack.
Lightheadedness – you might feel dizzy, or like you are going to pass out.
Cold sweats – sweatiness or clamminess is common sign, often coupled with other symptoms.
Nausea and vomiting – it’s also common to feel stick to your stomach.
Women often have heart attacks signaled by only a subtle range of symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Women’s symptoms also follow a pattern of being misdiagnosed or overlooked by medical professionals, and in many cases women themselves.
So women, in particular, need to be reminded not to ignore or be afraid to call attention to signs that something might be very wrong.
Why Can’t I Wait Until I’m Sure?
The answer to that is one no one wants to hear: because it may be too late.
A heart attack happens when an artery becomes blocked and oxygen and nutrients can’t get to the heart. Heart damage happens fast, and can’t be reversed.
We’ve all heard stories about the guy who walks into his doctor’s office and finds out he had a heart attack. However, we also need to know that in case of a cardiac episode, treatment is most effective within the first hour.
Yes, heart attacks happen But one of your best weapons against them is to know the potential signs and act quickly. This is especially true if you have one or more risk factors for heart disease. If you even suspect you may be having a heart attack, dial 911 immediately.
When it comes to heart disease, like every other aspect of our health care, getting the right information makes all the difference. And in this case, good things do not come to those who wait.