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Heart Attacks and Hidden Signs

Updated on September 15, 2011

Most people are familiar with the classic heart attack warning signs…chest pain, pain in the shoulder, arms or neck, chest discomfort with sweating, fainting or nausea etc. Chest pain could be simple indigestion or a heart attack. Knowing the warning signs of a heart attack could save a life. Men generally get heart attacks around the age of fifty,women usually after sixty.

But there are other signs, some seemingly so inconsequential they are often mistaken as other ailments. Unfortunately, 25 percent of all heart attacks happen suddenly without clear obvious indications and often too late.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than all cancers combined. Although men are more likely to experience a heart attack, physicians claim heart disease is the number one killer of women. But they also say 80 percent of the time, it's preventable.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, stress and a sedentary lifestyle are all known risk factors. When men experience a heart attack they usually display the typical response of clutching, grabbing chest pain. Women on the other hand, can have nausea, back pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath, anxiety and depression issues or even flu-like symptoms. Many times women will ignore these signs. Even doctors can miss subtle, early warning signs, but that doesn’t mean patients have to. By educating themselves many can avoid a potential heart attack.

It’s common knowledge smoking and high-fat foods play a major role in the onset of heart disease. What is not so commonly known is sleep habits and moods can also play a role. These seemingly unrelated issues may be early signs of heart trouble.Too much or too little sleep can increase blood pressure and levels of stress hormones which can put strain on the heart.

“Some other risk factors have been being researched for some time such as menstrual regularity and pregnancy complications. Most women fail to make a connection between their reproductive organs and their heart, but estrogen is a key factor in cardiac health. Women often experience heart attacks after menopause. It is important women who have ceased menstruating get yearly physicals.

Recent research suggests people with periodontal disease may be more prone to coronary artery disease. Researchers believe inflammation from gum disease may allow bacteria to enter the mouth’s blood vessels. And from there into the coronary artery vessels, thus narrowing the passages and blood flow.

Pain or discomfort in the jaw area is another sign of a possible impending heart attack but could also be a sign of various other diseases, disorders or conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, infection or neuralgia. But jaw pain is considered a classic, hallmark indication of a heart attack. Experiencing jaw pain in conjunction with chest pains or pain radiating to the arm and shoulder, sweating, or shortness of breath may mean a heart attack is in progress.

To date, most efforts in treating major heart disease risk factors have been concentrated on the obvious, such as high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. But it is becoming increasingly clear there are other factors at work. Sleep apnea, for instance, is an under diagnosed common condition that has recently been linked to both heart and lung disease. Sleep apnea, when a person stops breathing during sleep for ten seconds or longer, can cause problems in the blood vessels and potentially damage the heart. People with persistent gum disease, psoriasis, lupus, and other chronic inflammatory conditions may also be at a higher risk. Following are a few things to be aware of:

· Unusual fatigue: This can indicate a reduction in blood flow to the heart.

· Pregnancy complications: Preeclampsia or gestational diabetes are often signs of future heart trouble.

· Vitamin D deficiency: Can cause high blood pressure and inflammation of blood vessels.

· Frequent migraine headaches: In women this is sometimes in conjunction with visual problems such as seeing “flashing lights.” They can be a precursor to a future stroke.

· Sleep problems: Loss of sleep can put women at risk of calcium build up in their arteries.

· Clotting disorders: Disorders such as deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins can also produce a stroke.

However, there are steps one can take to reduce their risk. Smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and sleep apnea areexamples of things which can be controlled or treated.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      limph3215, Patty Inglish, MS and diseasessymptoms, your comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • diseasessymptoms profile image

      diseasessymptoms 6 years ago from Philippines

      Hi, thank you for the information. I think they ca be very useful for all of us.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      Excellent info. I have known three men recently whose sudden symptoms of depression and anxiety were signs of a heart attack soon afterward that killed them. All were in their early-mid 50s and their families did not recognize the signs.

      You will save lives with this Hub. UP!

    • limph3215 profile image

      limph3215 6 years ago from Malaysia

      Great article. Heart attack is the top killer now which should be getting more attention from those above 50. Beware of the hidden signs and not to be taken lightly. Thanks for sharing.