Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the United States. Every year, 735,000 people have one of its symptoms: a heart attack. Several warning signs can alert you to a potential heart attack.
The Prognosis Is Good if Patients Receive Immediate Attention
The good news is that people who are having a heart attack and get to an emergency room have an excellent chance of surviving. About 90 percent of those treated immediately survive. The remaining 10 percent either have massive damage to the heart or suffer residual problems later.
The reason the survival rate is so impressively high is that modern medicine has an entire arsenal to fight heart attacks and related conditions. Many heart attacks today can be stopped in progress with medications, for example.
Other treatments stop or minimize any damage to the heart. A heart attack damages the heart muscle as blood flow to the heart is reduced during the attack. The blood carries oxygen, which the heart muscle needs to function properly. An oxygen-deprived heart can be severely impaired and can lead to death.
If these survival statistics seem reassuring, they are, to a degree. The important point is: People undergoing a heart attack need to get to the emergency room. Therefore, it’s very important to know the early signs of a heart attack.
If you or a loved one are experiencing the early warning signs of a heart attack, call 911. Getting emergency help is the recommendation of leading heart health advocates like the American Heart Association, simply because it saves lives. Do not hesitate out of embarrassment or fear that it’s something else. The doctors would rather have you in the emergency room and find it’s something else than run the risk of seeing you dead.
It’s also important to be aware that heart attack signs in women and men differ: One list does not fit all.
Read on to find out the early signs, as well as ways of optimizing your heart health.
Warnings Signs in Men
- Chest Pain: Chest pain has been considered the primary symptom of a heart attack in progress for many years — it’s the iconic portrayal in movies and even in television advertisements. It is, in fact, a primary symptom in men. The chest pain occasioned by a heart attack can feel like squeezing, pressure or discomfort.
- Pain in Other Body Areas: Men may also experience pain in their stomach, jaw, back, and arms. Pain here may be accompanied by chest pain or occur only in one or more of these areas.
- Shortness of Breath: Shortness of breath rounds out the top three early signs of a heart attack. Shortness of breath feels like you can’t breathe or can’t get your breath as you normally do.
- Other Symptoms: Heart attacks can be announced by a number of other symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness and cold sweats can all be signs of a heart attack. Many of these symptoms can be signs of something else. Lightheadedness can be caused by skipping lunch for example. However, because of their association with heart attack, you should contact 911 if you feel any.
Warning Signs in Women
- Shortness of Breath: While shortness of breath is one of the symptoms for men as well, it is a more common heart attack symptom for women. It can occur with exertion or without.
- Other Symptoms: Heart attacks in women can manifest as a variety of symptoms, more so than in men. Nausea, vomiting, and lightheadedness are joined by indigestion, fatigue and stress. Some women have trouble sleeping even though they are tired if a heart attack is in progress. They became become extremely tired and heavy-feeling while performing daily life activities.
- Pain in Multiple Body Areas: Heart attack symptoms can be pain in the jaw, teeth, arms, and back. It can be in one or multiple areas.
- Chest Pain: Women who are having heart attacks can have chest pain. It’s just not as common a symptom as it is among men, so it’s important to pay attention to the other symptoms as well.
Prevent Heart Attacks: Follow Best Practices for Heart Health
Just as it’s important to get attention immediately if you might be having a heart attack, it’s important to prevent them if possible. That means instituting preventive practices in your life to optimize your heart health. Here’s how.
1. Stop Smoking
Smoking leads to heart disease, as well as other diseases. If you smoke, stop. If your friends and relatives smoke, meet them in smoke-free areas. Secondhand smoke can hurt your heart too. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight puts a strain on the heart. Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, work to take the pounds off.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Studies show that foods high in antioxidants such as pomegranates and garlic can actually reverse heart disease. Stick to a whole food, plant-based diet without added oils or processed sugar and try eating healthy, anti-oxidant rich foods to promote cardiac health.
4. Exercise Regularly
The more you exercise, the healthier your heart will be. Three times a week for roughly an hour is the minimum you should be exercising.
5. Monitor Your Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar if Necessary
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high blood sugar, monitor your levels regularly. High levels lead to heart attacks. If your levels become unacceptably high, work with your physician to lower them.
There are many heart attack early warning signs, and they differ among men and women. Know them and get immediate medical attention if you or a loved one develop any of them. Early intervention saves lives.