We all know that the heart is hardest working organ in the human body. Throughout our lives it continuously pumps blood, enriched with oxygen and vital nutrients, through a network of arteries to all body’s tissues. In order to perform the arduous task of pumping blood to the rest of the body, the heart muscles themselves needs a plentiful supply of oxygen-rich blood, which is provided through a network of coronary arteries.
When it comes to heart attacks, women generally have a much harder time than men. Women are more likely than men to pass away, to be permanently disabled, or to have a second attack within a year. Yet, a very insignificant amount of information is provided to women by their doctors and gynecologists to prevent possible heart attacks. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of the U.S. population, accounting for 40% of all U.S. deaths. That’s more than all forms of cancer combined. Here are the 10 most common signs to look out for.
Coronary artery disease is said to be the most common cause of heart attacks, which occurs when blood flow to the heart’s muscular walls (the myocardium) is disturbed. There are other theories which have been postulated by other experts in cardiology (such as Quintiliano H de Mesquita) that suggest that heart attacks begin inside the heart, not in the arteries.
Regardless of the cause, most heart attack patients claim that a series of symptoms was evident approximately 30 days before the event took place and they should never be ignored!
Note that 2 or even 3 of these symptoms that happen infrequently are not necessarily a certain sign of a heart attack, but a warning to heed caution. The symptoms of a heart attack can greatly vary from person to person. Some people can have only a few symptoms and are surprised to learn they have had a heart attack. So, if you experience 5 or more of these symptoms daily, it’s high time you saw a health professional!
It is important for you to know the most common symptoms of a heart attack and also remember these quick facts:
- Heart attacks can start slowly and cause only mild pain or discomfort. Symptoms can be mild or more intense and sudden. Symptoms also may come and go over several hours.
- People who have high blood sugar (diabetes) may have no symptoms or very mild ones.
- The most common symptom, in both males and females, is chest pain or discomfort.
- Women are somewhat more likely to have shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, unusual weariness (sometimes for days on end), and pain in the shoulders, back, and jaws.
Here are the 10 most common symptoms experienced 30 days (or less) before a heart attack occurs:
1. Shortness of breath
Loss of blood flow causes less blood flow in the lungs as well, which leads to shortening of breath. “Sometimes people having a heart attack don’t have chest pressure or pain but feel extremely short of breath,” says Nieca Goldberg, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “It’s like they’ve just run a marathon when they haven’t even moved.” During a heart attack, shortness of breath often accompanies chest discomfort, but it can also occur before or without chest discomfort. You become unable to inhale enough air. You get winded with little exertion and it improves when you stop.
2. Vertigo (dizziness) and sweating
When less blood reaches the brain, it affects corporal functions. A lot of blood flow is required for proper functioning of the brain. Heart attacks can cause lightheadedness and loss of consciousness. So can potentially dangerous heart beat abnormalities, known as arrhythmias. Breaking out in a cold sweat is a common symptom of heart attack. “You might just be sitting in a chair when all of a sudden you are really sweating like you had just worked out,”says David Frid, MD, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Feeling tired and exhausted every day of every week may be due to the lack of blood being transferred to the heart, brain and also the lungs. It becomes difficult to carry out usual daily activities. And it gets even worse over time and often leads to an overwhelming exhaustion– you feel too tired to do or finish anything. Especially among women, unusual fatigue can occur during a heart attack as well as in the days and weeks leading up to one. And feeling tired and weary all the time may be a symptom of heart failure.
4. Chest, back, shoulder, arm and neck Pain
The most common and very popular reason for heart attack is the pain that occurs in the chest. This pain is the green signal for the heart attack to happen. At first when the pain occurs, people panic but as soon as it disappears on its own they do not tend to have it examined and ignore it. People often ignore chest pain, but then notice there is a problem when it spreads to the shoulders, arms, and back.
Heart failure can cause fluid to accumulate in the body. This can cause swelling (often in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen) as well as sudden weight gain, and sometimes a completely unreasonable loss of appetite.
6. Unexplained weakness
In the weeks and days leading up to a heart attack, as well as during one, some people experience severe, unexplained weakness. “One woman told me it felt like she couldn’t hold a piece of paper between her fingers,”says Jean C. McSweeney, PhD, RN, associate dean for research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Nursing in Little Rock. It’s like having the flu with little to no strength. People take this sign as a fly by night symptom, but in reality it is a really big indicator which your body flashes to warn you that you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack in the near future!
7. Rapid or irregular pulse.
Doctors say that there’s usually nothing worrisome about an occasional skipped heartbeat. But a rapid or irregular pulse — especially when accompanied by weakness, dizziness, or shortness of breath — can be evidence of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia. Left untreated, some arrhythmias can lead to stroke, heart failure, or sudden death.
It’s not uncommon for people to feel sick to their stomach and have abdominal swelling associated with heart failure which can interfere with their appetite and digestion. Frequent indigestion is a big red flag along with intense heart burn.
9. Mood swings
Heart attack can cause intense anxiety and or even a fear of death. Heart attack survivors often talk about having experienced a sense of “impending doom.” Feelings of anxiety for no obvious reason are common.
Persistent coughing or wheezing can be a symptom of heart failure — a result of fluid accumulation in the lungs. In some cases, people with heart failure cough up bloody phlegm.