The heart is a very important organ, if not the most important organ, of the body. Anything that will stop it from beating should be taken very seriously. Symptoms or severity of symptoms that can stop the heart from beating varies from person to person. Some people have no symptoms; for others, the first sign may be sudden cardiac arrest. However, the more signs and symptoms you have, the greater the likelihood you’re having a heart attack. Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but many people have warning signs and symptom hours, days or weeks in advance.
The earliest warning might be recurrent chest pain or pressure (angina) that’s triggered by exertion and relieved by rest. Angina is caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart. Many people aren’t sure what’s wrong when they are having symptoms of a heart attack. Some of the most common warning signs of a heart attack for men and women are:
- Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest. The discomfort usually lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. It also can feel like heartburn or indigestion. Even though women may experience some different heart attack symptoms than men, chest pain is still the No. 1 warning sign for both sexes. The pain could be sharp, dull or the sensation that an elephant is sitting on your chest.
Upper body discomfort:
- You may feel pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach (above the belly button).
Shortness of breath:
- This may be your only symptom, or it may occur before or along with chest pain or discomfort. It can occur when you are resting or doing a little bit of physical activity. Being short of breath or having labored breathing, especially while at rest, can be a sign of heart attack or heart failure, when the heart function is not normal. It can also be a sign of certain arrhythmias.
Change in your ability to exercise:
- One big warning sign is lower exercise tolerance: You used to be able to walk up the stairs easily, but now you feel very breathless or even have to stop mid-way and take a break. That should be taken very seriously.
Overall feeling of being unwell or fatigued:
- Some people who simply report not feeling well or feeling fatigued go on to have a heart attack hours later. Sometimes, the chest pain is there, but the nausea is much more prominent so people may mistake the symptoms for the flu. How can you tell what’s really going on? The key is to know your risk factors. If you’re generally healthy and you wake up with what you think is the flu, you probably have the flu. But if you’re obese, sedentary, have high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease, you have to take your symptoms more seriously.
Other symptoms may Include: breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea (feeling sick to the stomach) and vomiting, light-headedness or sudden dizziness and any sudden, new symptoms or a change in the pattern of symptoms you already have (for example, if your symptoms become stronger or last longer than usual). Also, unexplained discomfort of the neck or jaw, or a tightness in the throat you’ve never felt before, can indicate a heart attack. It’s especially important for people with diabetes to pay attention to subtle changes like this because they have trouble feeling sensations so, they’re less likely to feel more typical symptoms like chest pain.
Heart attack risk factors include:
- Age: Men age 45 or older and women age 55 or older are more likely to have a heart attack than are younger men and women.
- Tobacco: This includes smoking and long-term exposure to secondhand smoke.
- High blood pressure: Over time, high blood pressure can damage arteries that feed your heart. High blood pressure that occurs with other conditions, such as obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes, increases your risk even more.
- High blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels: A high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) is most likely to narrow arteries. A high level of triglycerides, a type of blood fat-related to your diet, also ups your risk of heart attack. However, a high level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) lowers your risk of heart attack.
- Obesity: Obesity is associated with high blood cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing just 10 percent of your body weight can lower this risk, however.
- Diabetes: Not producing enough of a hormone secreted by your pancreas (insulin) or not responding to insulin properly causes your body’s blood sugar levels to rise, increasing your risk of heart attack.
- Metabolic syndrome:This occurs when you have obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Having metabolic syndrome makes you twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease than if you don’t have it.
- Family history of heart attack:If your siblings, parents or grandparents have had early heart attacks (by age 55 for male relatives and by age 65 for female relatives), you might be at increased risk.
- Lack of physical activity:Being inactive contributes to high blood cholesterol levels and obesity. People who exercise regularly have better cardiovascular fitness, including lower high blood pressure.
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