Although the signs and symptoms of a heart attack may vary, knowing what to look out for could be the difference between life and death since time is of the essence.
The Mayo Clinic lists the following as the most common symptoms of a heart attack:
- Chest pressure, tightness or pain
- Abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Sweating or a cold sweat
- Feeling anxious
- Difficulty sleeping
- Pain in the left arm
Sometimes, the sensations in the chest can feel like a squeeze or ache that spreads to the neck, jaw and back. There is also some variation the abdominal discomfort reported,which ranges from feeling full, nauseated, and can even mimic indigestion and heartburn.
It is important to note that not all patients who experience heart attacks will feel all the symptoms to an appreciable degree. In fact, in some people, the first sign is sudden cardiac arrest.
WHAT TO DO
If you suspect you or a loved one is suffering heart attack, it's important to act immediately by:
- Calling 911
- Take aspirin, if recommended
- Prepare to administer a shock or CPR
The sooner emergency personnel arrive with an automatic defibrillator device, the greater the chance of survival, so calling 911 is the first priority. If an AED is close by when the crisis occurs, making sure the device is ready to go in case the person loses their pulse will make the most of precious seconds and could save a life.
Chewing a 162- or 325-milligram aspirin tablet could reduce damage to the heart by making blood less likely to clot; however, it can also interact with other medications. So, it is best to ask a doctor or ask emergency personnel if it is recommended first.
PLAN TO PREVENT
Veteran University of Minnesota Cardiologist Dr. Dan Garry recommends anyone with a family history of heart disease or heart attack get examined before a crisis develops.
In addition to personal preparation, Garry urges patients to communicate with loved ones about the signs and symptoms that could emerge so that those around them are prepared to act if need be.
Garry added that frigid, cold weather can put additional stress on the heart. In fact, the number of heart attacks tend to rise as temperatures plunge.