Heart attacks happen when an artery supplying your heart with blood and oxygen becomes blocked. Without enough blood and oxygen your heart can be seriously damaged. A buildup of fatty plaques called cholesterol is usually responsible for the blockage.
It is imperative to act on the warning signs of a heart attack as soon as they show up.
A quick response can minimise the damage inflicted on the heart muscle, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
Unfortunately, a dearth of knowledge regarding the symptoms associated with heart attacks often result in critical delays.
Most people are aware of the chest pain that can be experienced when having a heart attack.
There are a range of symptoms that can spring up independent of chest pain, however.
Suddenly breaking into a sweat with cold, clammy skin may signal you are having a heart attack, according to Mayo Clinic.
Other lesser-known signs include:
- Stomach pain. Pain may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.
- Shortness of breath. You may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. This often occurs before you develop chest discomfort, or you may not experience any chest discomfort.
- Anxiety. You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you’re having a panic attack for no apparent reason.
- Lightheadedness. In addition to feeling chest pressure, you may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.
- Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
- Heart palpitations. You may feel as if your heart is skipping beats, or you may just be very aware that your heart is beating.
Although chest pain is a widely recognised symptom, many people may not know the specifics involved.
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As the BHF explains, chest pain may feel like pressure, squeezing or heaviness in your chest.
It may spread to your left or right arm or may spread to your neck, jaw, back or stomach, notes the health body.
Pain levels can also vary from person to person.
“For some people the pain or tightness in their chest is severe, while other people just feel uncomfortable, or pain similar to indigestion,” explains the BHF.
How to respond
“If you suspect the symptoms of a heart attack, call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance,” advises the NHS.
Do not worry if you have doubts – paramedics would rather be called out to find an honest mistake has been made than be too late to save a person’s life, says the health body.
“If you have had a heart attack, it’s important that you rest while you wait for an ambulance, to avoid unnecessary strain on your heart,” it adds.
How to prevent a heart attack
Prevention is always more important than reaction and making lifestyle changes is the most effective way to prevent having a heart attack.
A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have against a heart attack.
The food you eat and the amount can either raise or reduce your risk of the many precursors to having a heart attack, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
“Choose nutrient-rich foods — which have vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients but are lower in calories — over nutrient-poor foods,” advised the American Heart Association (AHA).
“Choose a diet that emphasises intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nontropical vegetable oils, and nuts; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats,” it adds.
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