Heart Attack Warnings

July 19, 2014

by Rebecca Jenson

Heart attacks often give warning signs and symptoms from hours, days, weeks or even a couple of months before a heart attack occurs. It is important to be familiar with these symptoms and seek emergent care if these symptoms happen to you.

There are several symptoms that often happen before or during a heart attack. Be familiar with the following:

  1. Chest Pain-This is the most common symptom a person experiences during a heart attack. This pain may range from mild to severe. It may come and go. It may be located all over the chest or on the left side or center of the chest. The pain also may be in the jaw and radiates down the left arm. It can be described as pressure, squeezing, or an uncomfortable fullness.
  2. Indigestion or Heartburn-Sometimes heart attacks are perceived as indigestion or heartburn. If these symptoms occur after a particularly heavy meal it might be easy to chalk such symptoms up as being related to the meal. My own father drank half a bottle of Mylanta before realizing he was having a heart attack and not just a bad case of indigestion.
  3. Nausea and Vomiting-Often accompanies other heart attack symptoms and is not as uncommon as once thought.
  4. Shortness of Breath (SOB)-SOB may or may not occur with chest pain. It may precede a heart attack or occur during a heart attack. If you have this symptom even in the absence of chest pain, it is important to be evaluated urgently as it is signaling that something is not right. If you experience SOB with exertion or activity that normally does not make you winded-report this to your health care provider immediately.

There are additional signs and symptoms of a heart attack-be familiar with them:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Passing out
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or weakness
  • Vague feeling of feeling ill
  • Felling of impending doom or anxiety
  • Choking feeling, indigestion or heartburn
  • Discomfort that spreads to the shoulders, arm, back, neck or jaw
  • If you experience these signs or symptoms, call 911 immediately

You are more likely to have a heart attack sometime in your life if you have the following risk factors.  It is important to control these problems through diet, exercise and medications if warranted.

  1. Diabetes-This can double or triple your chances of having a heart attack. High blood sugars can damage the heart and its blood vessels as well as the blood vessels of the kidneys, brain eyes, and other organs Damage to the blood vessels happens silently, often years before the damage is obvious to you.
  2. High Blood Pressure-Also called hypertension; it is often called “the silent killer”. You may not know that your blood pressure is elevated, yet is doing damage to the blood vessels of the heart and other organs. You are more likely to have high blood pressure if you are overweight, sedentary, or have a family history of high blood pressure. Some persons have high blood pressure without these risk factors.
  3. High Cholesterol-Uncontrolled LDL (bad) cholesterol causes a fatty substance called plaque to build up on the artery walls. When plaque ruptures or builds up it can block one or more if the coronary arteries (arteries that feed the heart) causing a heart attack. Eating a diet low in saturated fats and high in plant foods will help to lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol. Exercise will increase your HDL (good) cholesterol which helps to protect your heart.
  4. Stress-Stress can lead to arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. It is important to learn to control stress.
  5. Smoking-A dangerous mixture of chemicals from cigarette smoke will damage the heart. Ask your health care provider about ways to stop smoking.
  6. Obesity-Being overweight triples your risk of having a heart attack. Obesity also contributes to diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. When these three factors are combined, it accelerates damage to the heart. Losing weight alone can lower your overall risk of having a heart attack
  7. Sedentary Lifestyle-In this day of electronics, desk jobs, and technology; it is important to find time to move your body. A combination of aerobic and resistance exercises, 4-5 times a week for 45-60 minutes each will lower your risk of diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol, therefore, lowering your overall risk of having a heart attack.