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Is It A Heart Attack?

Updated on January 28, 2017

Would You Recognise A Heart Attack?

A little about heart attacks and their symptoms, interwoven with personal experiences. Everyone should be able to recognise the symptoms of a heart attack - you could save a life!

It would probably be a good idea to find out how to do CPR; there are quite a lot of courses around that teach this, and it isn't difficult at all.

This article is about my personal experiences. If you have health concerns, please see a Medical Practitioner. I am not qualified to give medical advice, and this article is for information only.

Recognising A Heart Attack - The Symptoms

Pulmonary stenosis.
Pulmonary stenosis. | Source

These are the symptoms of a heart attack. Some or all of these may be experienced, or even none of them, but this is rare.

  • Pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest that comes and goes, or stays for more than a few minutes.
  • Pain or discomfort in either arm, or both arms,.
  • Pain in the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath

It is also possible to suffer nausea, break out in cold sweats, or feel lightheaded.

The American Heart Association has this animation of a heart attack.

Women Are Different!

Women May Have Different Symptoms To Men!

They may have shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.

Getting Some Of The Symptoms!

Treating a heart attack.
Treating a heart attack. | Source

When I suffered chest pains, I'd just sat down to an afternoon watching golf on TV, when the nastiest chest pains I'd ever had started. There was tightness around my middle, and the pain was extending up into my throat. At first, I put it down to acute indigestion, which is a common mistake, apparently.

After about 30 minutes of this, my partner and I called the emergency services. When they arrived, the pain had disappeared, but the ECG was showing some irregularities. Off I went in the ambulance to hospital.

Although I didn't have the symptoms any longer, I was on a monitor and lots of blood tests were taken. The blood is checked for certain enzymes which the heart puts out when it's in trouble. If they find these enzymes, you've had a heart attack.

After a while in emergency, I was put into the short stay section, as I had to wait about 8 - 10 hours before the second blood test could be taken. Of course, during this time, I was on a monitor, and being checked on frequently, although it now seemed there was nothing wrong.

Eventually, the blood tests were finalised and it was found that I hadn't had a heart attack, and the irregularities were just the usual actions of a benign heart murmur I've had for years. It isn't possible for the ambulance crew to differentiate between old and new murmurs on the heart monitor.

After a few visits to outpatients over the following weeks, nothing unusual was found, so it was all put down to indigestion, much to my relief. It could have been a heart attack, but as a heart specialist says on a TV advert, "The best outcome is a false alarm".

If you think you're having a heart attack, get help - you could save your own life!

Heart Attack Poll

Have You Had A Heart Attack?

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How Hearts Work - A Very Simple Explanation

Heart diagram.
Heart diagram. | Source

A heart is made of muscle, is usually situated slightly to the left of centre in the chest, and is about the size of a clenched fist.

There are four chambers, two at the top called atria, and two at the bottom called ventricles. Hearts pump blood to the lungs to receive oxygen and then pump it around the body where it is needed.

Oxygen poor blood comes to the heart via the veins, enters the right atrium then onwards through a one-way valve to the right ventricle. It is then sent to the lungs to collect oxygen.

Once the oxygen has been collected, the blood returns to the heart via the left atrium, goes through another one-way valve to the left ventricle, and is then pumped around the body through the aorta.

Click here to see a much better explanation, in more detail.

Exercise Is Good For Your Heart!

Exercising. | Source

After my little heart attack scare, I decided I was in the dangerous age, my sixties, and being a little overweight also, felt it was time to do something about my fitness level. The cardiologist, during my stress test, had commented on how unfit I was!

After getting a doctor's note saying I was fit enough to exercise, I joined a local gym.

Further down the track, not much has happened on the weight front, but I do have more stamina, and am able to exercise at a slightly higher level on the treadmill and the bike. Hopefully, soon the weight will drop off, but unfortunately, I like chocolate a lot, and it's hard to give that up!

Two years on, and I am a lot fitter, and have dropped 1 kilo in weight. I console myself with the though that I have probably lost some fat, but haven't lost much weight because I've put on muscle - muscle weighs more than fat.

A Blocked Artery

Arterial blockage.
Arterial blockage. | Source

Causes Of Heart Attacks - Are you at risk?

Anatomy of a heart.
Anatomy of a heart. | Source

The heart is much more complex than you may think, and there are many causes of problems. Here are a few of them:

  • Atherosclerosis - thickening of the artery walls
  • Coronary Heart Disease - plaque blocks arteries, causing blood clots
  • Fright - people have had attacks during earthquakes, for example
  • Smoking - toxins in cigarettes cause arteries to narrow
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

If you suffer from one or more of the above health problems, you may be at increased risk of a heart attack. If you are worried, discuss it with your medical practitioner.

Philips HeartStart OnSite Defibrillator AED
Philips HeartStart OnSite Defibrillator AED

One of the best portables, which comes with instructions for use. Ideal for clubs and gyms, etc.


Portable Defibrillators - They could save a life!

Here in Australia, many of our sporting clubs, gyms, etc., have discovered that having their own portable defibrillators is important in saving lives. Even fit young athletes sometimes have heart attacks, and the faster treatment can be given the better.

These units are easy to use, and come with spoken instructions so you don't need to be a qualified doctor or paramedic to use them.

Don't watch if you're squeamish!

Want To Add Anything About Heart Attacks?

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    • stanger66 profile image

      stanger66 4 years ago

      Funnily I was rushed into hospital this week with extreme high blood pressure. So found your lens very helpful

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @sheilamarie78: Your'e right - it's better to have a false alarm than the real thing. Thanks for visiting.

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 5 years ago

      It's so important to be sensitive to the messages our bodies give us. I'm glad your experience was a false alarm. That's always good news, isn't it?

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      Thanks for this - I like to remind myself of the signs of a heart attack every so often. Well done!

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @listprofits: Good advice. Glad you found out in time that you were in danger! So many people think it won't happen to them, or it will go away.

    • listprofits profile image

      listprofits 5 years ago

      I had a triple bypass in 2011, no heart attack, but odd low key symptoms I followed up lead to an angiogram and news that I was in serious danger of a fatal attack... In rehab that followed I was surprised by how many people had uncovered heart problems whilst exercising (eg for a half marathon), and by how many had multiple attacks leading to stents and then a bypass... without learning much from the experience. The core message was always follow up on symptoms, as you did, the medics would rather find out you were clear, than treat an attack that could have gone better with early intervention....

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @ManfromModesto LM: Thanks for that - might have to put some additional info in my lens. Thanks for your visit!

    • ManfromModesto LM profile image

      ManfromModesto LM 5 years ago

      They are starting to now call strokes a "brain attack" to emphasize the importance of getting to the hospital. There are simple meds to dissolve blood clots, and prevent much, most, or all of the negative effects.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Sylvestermouse: Yes, I treated it as a warning sign, and do feel a lot better for the exercise. Glad you found the lens helpful. Thanks for visiting.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

      Only recently did I hear that jaw pain could be a heart attack symptom. I needed to read over those symptoms just to remind myself of what to watch for in myself and others. I am happy that you did not have a heart attack and how awesome though that the episode prompted you to start exercising regularly.