When people think about the main symptom of a heart attack the first thing that comes to mind is chest pain. Unfortunately, heart attack symptoms aren’t so clear-cut. Symptoms of a heart attack can show up in very different ways depending on numerous factors such as whether you are male or female, what type of heart disease you have been diagnosed with, or a person’s age. Understanding the variety of symptoms that may lead to a heart attack would require more digging of information in which we will try to explain to you in this article. Having this information may even end up saving your loved one’s life or even your own life one day!
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction (MI), is permanent damage to the heart muscle. “Myo” means muscle, “cardial” refers to the heart, and “infarction” means death of tissue due to lack of blood supply.
In order for your heart muscle to function properly it requires a good supply of oxygen-rich blood at all times. The coronary arteries provide the heart with this critical blood supply. If you have coronary artery disease, the arteries become narrow and blood can’t flow as well as it should.
What is coronary artery disease?
The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). It is the leading cause of death in the United States in both men and women.
When the arteries that are suppose to supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle become narrowed and hardened, coronary artery disease develops. This narrowing and hardening of the arteries is caused due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis. As it gets more and more built up, less blood can flow through the arteries. The heart muscle becomes deprived of oxygen-rich blood that it requires which can lead to chest pain(angina) or even a heart attack. Most heart attacks happen when a blood clot suddenly cuts off the heart’s blood supply, causing permanent heart damage.
Without adequate blood, the heart becomes starved of oxygen and the vital nutrients it needs to work properly. This can cause chest pain called angina. When one or more of the coronary arteries are completely blocked, a heart attack (injury to the heart muscle) may occur.
What happens during a heart attack?
A network of blood vessels known as coronary arteries surround the heart muscle and supply it with blood that is rich in oxygen and nutrients. The heart muscle needs this continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients to function. A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes suddenly blocked, stopping the flow of blood to the heart muscle and damaging it.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Men
You’re more likely to experience a heart attack if you’re a man. Men also have heart attacks earlier in life compared to women. If you have a family history of heart disease or a history of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, or other risk factors, your chances of having a heart attack are even higher.
Fortunately, a lot of research has been done on how men’s hearts react during heart attacks.
Symptoms of a heart attack in men include:
standard chest pain that feels like “an elephant” is sitting on your chest, with a squeezing sensation that may come and go or remain constant and intense – upper body pain or discomfort, including arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach – rapid or irregular heartbeat – stomach discomfort that feels like indigestion -shortness of breath, which may leave you feeling like you can’t get enough air, even when you’re resting – dizziness or feeling like you’re going to pass out – breaking out in a cold sweat
It’s important to remember, however, that each heart attack is different. Your symptoms may not fit this cookie-cutter description. Trust your instincts if you think something is wrong.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Women
In recent decades scientists have determined that heart attack symptoms can be quite different in women than in men. In 2003, the journal, Circulation, published the findings of a multicenter study of 515 women who’d experienced a heart attack. The most frequently reported symptoms did not include chest pain. Instead, women reported unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, and anxiety. Nearly 80 percent reported experiencing at least one symptom for more than a month before their heart attack.
Symptoms of heart attack in women include:
unusual fatigue lasting for several days or sudden severe fatigue – sleep disturbances – anxiety – lightheadedness – shortness of breath – indigestion or gas-like pain – upper back, shoulder, or throat pain – jaw pain or pain that spreads up to your jaw
pressure or pain in the center of your chest, which may spread to your arm
In a 2012 survey published in the journal, Circulation, only 65 percent of women said they would call 911 if they thought they might be having a heart attack. Even if you’re not sure, get emergency care right away.
Base your decision on what feels normal and abnormal for you. If you haven’t experienced symptoms like this before, don’t hesitate to get help. If you don’t agree with your doctor’s conclusion, get a second opinion.
“Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, ” said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer. “Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.” Even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn’t get help right away.
Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging. A heart attack
strikes someone about every 43 seconds. Waiting around or ignoring the symptoms could cost you your life!