Do You Know How to Spot a Heart Attack ??
The chances are fairly good that most of us will never be in a situation where knowing how to identify the most common symptoms of a heart attack, and responding appropriately, will save a life. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if we don’t know, and don’t act quickly in the event, there’s almost no chance of our saving the life in question – maybe our own.
Contrary to the movie version of a heart attack, victims seldom clutch their chest and crumple to the ground in a matter of seconds. In real life it’s much more likely that there will be warning symptoms, so be aware of them and be quick to call 999 for emergency assistance.
The most common warning sign is chest pain or discomfort, which may be described as tightness, or heaviness, or a burning sensation, sometimes mistaken for heartburn. The feeling usually lasts for a while – more than just a couple of minutes – but it may go away and then come back. The pain usually starts in the middle or left side of the chest, but not always.
It’s important to remember that not all heart attacks are alike. Often there will be pain in the chest that radiates to other parts of the body, but in some cases – more often with women – pain or discomfort occurs in parts of the upper body including one or both arms, the back, shoulders or neck. Even the jaw and the upper abdomen (above the navel) may be locations for these warning pains.
The second telltale sign of a heart attack is shortness of breath that’s not the result of strenuous activity. In a heart attack it may be the only symptom, though usually it occurs before and/or during pain in the chest or elsewhere. If there is shortness of breath while at rest, there’s definitely cause for concern, and if it lasts more than a couple of minutes, call 999.
Other Possible Symptoms
Other symptoms of a heart attack are often mistaken for another illness such as flu. Most studies show that women are more likely to experience these symptoms, but they apply to men also. They may include nausea, dizziness, breaking out in a cold sweat, going pale in the face and unusual fatigue, especially if it lasts longer than a couple of hours with no obvious reason.
If flu-like symptoms appear suddenly and are accompanied by any other typical signs of a heart attack, don’t hesitate to call for help. In any case it’s better to be safe than sorry; heart attacks do not always herald themselves with a clear warning like sharp pains or shortness of breath, and symptoms may occur over days or weeks rather than minutes or hours. Be aware, and you may save a life – possibly your own.