It is a scary thought, but heart attacks are relatively common. In India, around 735,000 people have a heart attack, from mild to severe each year. That means about one in every four hundred in India suffers from a heart attack in any given year. And while some people may never experience any symptoms or only very mild ones, for others, a heart attack can be a sudden and frightening event. Therefore, it is important to know the most common signs of a heart attack so that you can get heart attack treatment as quickly as possible if you or someone you love experiences them.
What Causes Heart Attacks?
Heart attacks occur when there is plaque buildup in your coronary arteries. Plaque comprises fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries, slowing down or blocking blood flow to your heart muscle. A complete blockage causes a heart attack. Most heart attacks happen when a clot forms suddenly and cuts off the blood supply to part of your heart muscle. A clot usually develops due to plaque that has built up over many years, gradually narrowing an artery until finally, there is not enough room for even one drop of blood to pass through. That’s why it’s essential to make lifestyle changes to prevent plaque buildup and reduce your risk of having a heart attack later on down the road.
Most common signs of heart attack
1. Chest pain or discomfort:
This may feel like tightness, fullness, heavy pressure, or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and returns. It can also feel like indigestion, heartburn, or squeezing in your chest. This discomfort usually happens with one or more of the following: shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats. This type of pain is called Angina. You’re more likely to have Angina if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of heart disease. But Angina can also occur even without these underlying medical conditions. It is usually caused by coronary artery disease (CAD). That’s when plaque buildup narrows the coronary arteries and reduces blood flow to your heart muscle.
2. Discomfort in different areas of the upper body:
People who experience symptoms in other areas of their upper body may mistake them for indigestion or heartburn. However, it is vital to be aware that chest pain is not the only heart attack symptom. Discomfort in different areas of the upper body, such as the neck, jaw, or arms, can also be a sign that something is wrong. In addition, people who are having a heart attack may also experience pain or discomfort in their back or stomach. While these other symptoms are not as common as chest pain, they can still be a sign that you are having a heart attack. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek a doctor’s consultation immediately and undergo heart attack treatment if it’s, in fact, a heart attack.
3. Shortness of breath:
This may occur with or without chest discomfort and is often worse with activity or when lying down. It can also happen when you have coronary artery disease (CAD) or heart failure. Shortness of breath occurs because the heart isn’t pumping as well as it should, so the body doesn’t get enough oxygen.
4. Breaking out in a cold sweat:
When you break out in a cold sweat, it can be alarming. You may wonder if you’re coming down with something or if you have a heart attack. Cold sweats can happen with or without chest pain or discomfort, and they’re often worse with activity. They can be caused by anxiety, low blood sugar, infection, or other medical conditions. Call your doctor immediately if you have cold sweats and other symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain. Otherwise, there’s no need to worry. Just take a break and relax until the sweating passes.
5. Nausea or vomiting:
This may happen with or without chest pain or discomfort and is often worse with activity. It can also be a sign of heart failure.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, particularly chest pain, it is important to get checked and undergo heart attack treatment if diagnosed. Do not drive alone by yourself to the hospital; call an ambulance so that you can get medical attention as quickly as possible. Once you are at the hospital, a doctor will likely perform an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check for evidence of a heart attack. They may also order blood tests to check for certain enzymes that are released into the bloodstream when someone has had a heart attack. Based on the results of these tests, along with your symptoms and medical history, the doctor will be able to make a diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment.
For some patients who have had a heart attack, treatment may simply involve taking medications such as aspirin and beta-blockers and making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and exercising more regularly. However, critical cases may require more aggressive treatment, such as surgery to open up blocked arteries or implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), which can help prevent future heart attacks by delivering electrical shocks to the heart if it starts to beat erratically.
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