It’s difficult to fully explain the heart attack symptoms in clinical practice. Apart from a bad lifestyle, this is also a big reason for the rising incidence of heart attacks worldwide! In this post, we will try to address the early symptoms of an impending heart attack and when to see a doctor.
As always said,
‘Prevention is better than cure’
still applies here! Prevention of the coronary artery disease through good lifestyle and eating habits is encouraged. Let’s see what are the 11 worst heart attack symptoms which everyone should learn.
What are the Heart Attack Symptoms?
Basics: What are Coronary Arteries? What is a Heart Attack?
Let’s start with little basics about, what actually causes a heart attack?
In the simplest language, a heart attack is an event that causes the heart to behave violently in a response to low Oxygen to the coronaries (blood vessels supplying Oxygen and nutrients to the heart)!
THE CORONARIES (Image Credit: www.tube.medchrome.com)
The paradox is, we all are aware that heart pumps blood to the whole body. Even more obvious is that a pump which throws blood should be bathed in blood too. Then, why does the heart needs separate blood vessels to supply Oxygen and nutrients to it?
Here’s the answer!
The heart has very thick walls. The inner walls of the heart are bathed in blood. The outer thick walls of the heart are dependent upon the coronary arteries for Oxygen and nutrition. These arteries indeed have their origin from the inner chambers of the heart, and they supply the whole musculature of the heart.
Finally, when the heart pumps blood into the major vessels of the body, the coronary arteries to receive blood during the pumping stage. Therefore, the coronaries nourish the thick walls of the heart. This keeps the heart viable and supports life.
Clogging of the Coronary Arteries: An Actual face of Heart Attack!
Now, if the coronary arteries become clogged, the Oxygen and nutrient supply to the heart is stopped. Therefore, this causes the heart muscles to behave violently in response to unavailability of nutrition. This response is sent to the nerves and is distributed throughout the body in the form of a violent phase. As a result, the patient presents with typical symptoms of a heart attack.
If the clot dissolves or passes into the main circulation, the vital energy is delivered to the heart muscles, and the heart calms down.
But, in the opposite situation, if the clot is huge and denies to break down, the heart attack can be massive and probably jeopardize the life of the individual. This is called a Cardiac Arrest!
How do I know my chest pain is serious and I need to see a doctor immediately?
Chest pain should be taken seriously! Particularly, when the pain is accompanied by tightness, squeezing, heaviness, or a crushing sensation in the chest, radiating from left arm to your jaw bone. A more serious pain may be accompanied by weakness, nausea, breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, or fainting.
What causes a Heart Attack? What causes narrowing of Heart Arteries?
Now that you have understood, the main mechanism of the origin of a heart attack symptoms. You must be able to understand, any stimuli that will cause a reduction of the coronary blood flow will be met with similar circumstances!
Commonly known stimuli that can lead to narrowing of the coronary circulation, hence impeding the Oxygen flow to the heart are –
Stiffening of the coronary vessels and Calcium deposits in the coronary circulation may be one of the main reason, why heart attacks are common in the elderly population.
Exposure to cold weather causes squeezing and narrowing of the coronaries, consequently results in heart attacks. This is particularly evident in cases who are known heart patients or in the elderly age groups.
High cholesterol is the main generator of clots in the circulation. The intensity depends upon the unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and genetic factors.
The clots are of two types: One, that originates at a place and causes narrowing of the blood vessel lumen, causing poor blood flow ahead. Two, which originates at one place, detaches itself, and travels in the blood circulation to obstruct any narrower passage that it confronts! The latter is more dangerous!! It is this variety which gives rise to fatal consequences like, Stroke and Pulmonary Embolism.
Image Credit: www.live-young.com
Smoking is linked to many non-reversible chronic diseases in the body. From Lung Cancer to Heart Attacks, smoking has been recognized as a major risk factor. Therefore, one should QUIT SMOKING as soon as possible!
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension damages the coronary vessels. This leads to the origin of blood clots! Furthermore, prolonged hypertension may lead to failure of kidneys and stroke. Controlling hypertension is mostly the first step in preventing heart attacks and coronary artery disease.
Diabetes is a known as ‘Silent but sure-shot killer!’ If you’re a Diabetic, you’re having a prominent risk factor of having a heart attack. Furthermore, the heart attack in a Diabetic patient is often silent. This is due to neuropathy (death of pain carrying signal pathways). Keeping a good check on your blood sugar levels can be the best health plan for your longevity!
Click here to check if you have a high chances of developing Diabetes!
Most authors do not comment on Stress as a major contributor to the development of heart disease. Seems like, it releases many harmful chemical mediators that cause coronary squeezing and consequently heart attack!
11 Worst Heart Attack Symptoms
Most heart attack symptoms are without any prior warnings. Rather, they may present with subtle features which are extremely hard even for the best Physician to diagnose and label as a heart attack!
Before I dig in further, you must be clear about both the terms! Coronary Artery Disease is the condition which may or may not be associated with the heart attack. While heart attack symptoms have an obvious relation with coronary artery disease.
1. Calf Pain while Walking
Calf muscle pain while walking is one of the earliest sign of a serious cardiac disorder. This is a clear indicator of having clogged arteries of the legs. Therefore, the clogged arteries of the legs may be a big indication of clogged arteries of the coronary circulation too!
Image Credit: physioprescription.com
Continuous sweating may be a symptom of a massive heart attack! Furthermore, sweating accompanied by chest pain is likely a sign of an impending heart attack!
3. Breathlessness while Walking
Breathlessness associated with any physical activity should raise a suspicion of an underlying coronary artery disease. Furthermore, in patients with existing heart problems, breathlessness can be prominent even at rest.
4. Jaw Pain
The pain of heart attack usually follows a typical pattern! The pain due to the heart attack can radiate to the lower edge of the jaw, sometimes extending in the neck. Furthermore, a feeling of crushing sensation in the chest is almost always accompanied by the jaw ache.
Image Credit: EHealthStar.com
5. Stroke like symptoms
A recent study says Stroke can be pre-detected with some simple tests. These are – not able to extend hands above the shoulders, asymmetry of the face, and slurring of speech. Furthermore, an impending stroke is the biggest risk factor for a heart attack too!!
6. Erectile Dysfunction
Men who complain of erectile dysfunction may have already clogged arteries of their penis. As already stated, any clogged artery in the circulation is a potential risk for having a heart attack.
7. Chest Pain
The chest pain may mimic many problems. It is often classified in a broad symptom category unless accompanied by any other symptom.
Most noteworthy, the chest pain due to the heart attack may be crushing in nature, extending from upper left part of the chest towards the left side of the jaw and to the left arm.
While, the chest pain due to heartburn may be accompanied by nausea, belching and upper abdominal discomfort. Furthermore, the pain can be relieved by antacids and Anti-cholinergics.
Chest pain due to Pancreatitis can be misleading too! It has piercing nature, usually limited to the Epigastrium (Upper part of the abdomen where both ribs meet in the center).
Image Credit: Pinterest.com
8. Back Pain
Similar to chest pain, the back pain too has little relevance, when it is not accompanied by any other symptoms of heart attack. It usually has little importance when almost all the important symptoms of heart attack are present.
9. Left Arm Pain not associated with muscle movement
An arm pain is usually of muscular in most places. If the patient has a crushing type of chest pain radiating towards the left arm, and accompanied by sweating, this may be one of the most reliable symptoms for the ongoing heart attack.
Moreover, even if the patient is a known patient of coronary artery disease, and constant pain in the left arm with or without any other mentioned symptoms may be the ONLY sign of a heart attack!
10. Heartburn unrelieved by Antacids
Pain due to heartburn often mimics the pain due to a heart attack! Even the best Cardiologist in your city can misdiagnose your chest pain. The same happened with my Grandfather too!!
Sample Case Study: How heart attack may mimic a heartburn discomfort?
My grandfather, aged 82, Diabetic, Hypertensive and Hypothyroid (all under control) complained of mild discomfort in the upper abdomen (See the difference!! He did not complain of chest pain). He was sure about having a heartburn due to overdoing his dinner. I prescribed antacids for the relief of heartburn.
When I saw him apprehensive for over 2 hours, and his chest discomfort was still present, I made my decision for an ER (Emergency Room) visit. He was diagnosed for an impending heart attack on ECG. Finally, he was treated accordingly, and his life was saved.
Most noteworthy, he did not present with the typical chest pain because he was a known Diabetic for 30 years. And, as already mentioned, Diabetics usually have a silent heart attack!
11. Extreme Fatigue / Lightheadedness / Fainting
These symptoms of heart attack may be noticed in patients, who have been experiencing severe anxiety or panic attacks regarding their health. In addition, the feeling of lightheadedness and tiredness is a part of the feeling of doom in these patients. However, these symptoms may often sound vague, but they suggest an underlying depression or anxiety.
Though it is very difficult to diagnose the heart attack symptoms based on a few findings. Because, most symptoms of heart attack are so fine, that they are often overlooked and misdiagnosed by the Physician. Nevertheless, one should always be cautious about the heart’s health.
Finally, the best way to keep your heart young is to stick on to these simple yet hard to perform methods –
1. Eating Right
3. Giving up tobacco and alcohol
4. Take your medications on time (Don’t skip your drugs!)
5. Stay away from stress precipitating factors
6. Visit your Physician regularly, as per your age and health status
I hope this post covers most of the queries regarding the heart attack symptoms and coronary artery disease. Please send me the comments below to know, how you feel about this post.
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