Early Signs of a Heart Attack
Exactly What is a Heart Attack
I think everyone has some idea of what a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is, but you may not know exactly what is happening physically to the body. Since heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the USA and 735,000 die annually, you may want to have a few more details.
Plaque (atherosclerosis) builds up in the arteries due to fat, cholesterol and other substances in one or more arteries of the heart, which lessens or stops blood flow. Then, an electrical abnormaity (ventricular fibrillation) can occur, which causes death of some of the heart muscle and often the individual’s death.
The heart has four chambers and an electrical system. In a normal heart the top two chambers (atriums) contract, and an electric current is sent to the bottom two chambers (ventricles) signaling them to contract. The contraction of the ventricles sends blood throughout the arteries of the body.
When ventricular fibrillation (a lethal heart rhythm) occurs, the chambers basically quiver and do not contract. If you can reach the emergency room before this occurs, your prognosis is excellent.
What is a Silent Heart Attack?
It is possible to have a silent heart attack, which is basically a small heart attack that does some damage to the heart muscle. This would most likely happen if there was a small blood clot or some plaque in a smaller artery. Particular characteristic markings will show up on an electrocardiogram (EKG) if you have a silent heart attack.
These silent heart attack symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Vomiting, indigestion or other gastrointestinal distress
- Severe fatigue
- Pressure in the upper back
- Lightheadedness, fainting
Often people ignore these symptoms as there could be other causes for them. If you have a few of these symptoms or even a couple, the best course of action would be to see your doctor. One hospital record review found that 16% of individuals dying of a heart attack had been hospitalized within the previous 28 days for another problem. This tells us that some of these heart attack symptoms are not being considered, even by the doctors.
Heart Attack - Dying Heart Muscle
Typical Signs of a Major Heart Attack
A major heart attack will have very noticeable symptoms. The discomfort will be very noticeable, and this is the time to call 911 and take an aspirin. If you have nitroglycerin, take it.
Arriving at an emergency room quickly increases your prognosis and saves the life of 90% of the patients. The remaining 10% of heart attack attack victims die later due to major heart muscle damage. Always err on the side of caution and call 911. Driving yourself to the hospital can put you and other people on the road at risk.
You may have one or more of these symptoms.
Symptoms of a major heart attack include:
- Pressure, tightness, pain, and/or a squeezing sensation to your chest and/or arms
- Pain may also be in your jaw, back or neck
- Elephant sitting on chest sensation in a major attack
- Indigestion, heartburn, nausea or abdominal pain.
- Very short of breath
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Extreme fatigue
- Lightheadedness and sudden dizziness
Overwhelming sense of doom
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
It is good to be aware of the risk factors for heart disease and avoid them if at all possible. Obviously you cannot change a genetic component or age, but you can change exercise habits, your diet and get help from your doctor to quit smoking.
Smoking or living with second hand smoke
- High blood pressure
- Elevated cholesterol or triglycerides
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Stress - in particular your response to stress
- Age as men over 45 years and women over 55 years are at higher risk
- Illicit drug use - specially stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines
- Strong family history of heart disease
- Autoimmune diseases - such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
Another risk factor is metabolic syndrome. This reflects the combined risk factors of obesity, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure. Metabolic syndrome makes it twice as likely you will suffer from heart disease. The more of these risk factors you have the higher your risk of a heart attack.
Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.
-- Leonardo da Vinci
Surprising Signs of Heart Attack in Women
Symptoms of a Heart Attack Can Vary
Heart attack symptoms can vary from one person to another. The pain may be severe or absent. It may be sudden or begin mildly over days or week. Not all people who have heart attacks have the same symptoms or have the same severity of symptoms.
Women usually experience pain, but they often have more shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and their pain may be in their back or jaw pain.
Some people have recurrent chest discomfort or pain (called angina), which will occur with exercise or some type of exertion It will be relieved with rest. Angina is caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart.
If you have chest pain or pressure that is not relieved with rest, act immediately to get help. Sometimes people wait too long as they do not recognize the urgency of the situation. Please do not make that mistake.
Treatment for Heart Disease
There are clot dissolving drugs if you come to the emergency room with a heart attack. These drugs dissolve the clot and often stop any heart damage, but they must be given closely after the heart attack begins.
Coronary angiogram and and a coronary balloon angioplasty are effective in diagnosing and treating a clot, which will prevent a heart attack. They open blockages to restore full circulation.
Heart Attack Warning Symptoms
I have an autoimmune disease, age above 55 and a family history of heart disease, although I never smoked. I ate pretty healthy and exercised, but when I went for a treadmill test I was not allowed to leave the hospital a few years ago. My EKG was severely abnormal, and the next morning I had two stents place in one of my arteries.
I never had symptoms! I did not have disease in any other arteries either. The doctors stated that they thought my disease was due to the medications I had received for systemic lupus. I probably would have had a major heart attack if this had not been discovered.
This is a serious topic as it claims so many lives in the USA and in other countries as well. It is important to see your doctor regularly, and report any symptoms to that doctor. If you are a diabetic it is doubly important.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.