TV shows and movies often depict heart attacks as dramatic events, with the affected person clutching their chest and collapsing as the background music escalates. However, the reality can be much more subtle and sometimes less sudden. A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart gets blocked, usually by a blood clot. The blockage can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle. Knowing the signs of a heart attack can help you respond promptly and potentially save a life.
Understanding Heart Attacks
A heart attack happens when blood flow, providing oxygen to the heart muscle, is significantly reduced or cut off completely. This often results from the buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances, forming a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart (coronary arteries). As the heart muscle begins to die from a lack of oxygen, the functionality of the heart (and thus the rest of the body) becomes compromised.
It’s crucial to understand that a heart attack is a medical emergency. If you or someone around you experiences symptoms of a heart attack, immediate action is essential. Calling 911 is the fastest way to access life-saving treatment. Emergency medical services can start treatment en route to the hospital and have the necessary equipment to handle cardiac emergencies.
Early Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
While some heart attacks are sudden and intense, others begin with mild pain or discomfort. It’s crucial to recognize these signs and act immediately. Here are some early warning signs:
Chest discomfort: The most common symptom is discomfort in the center of the chest, which lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
Discomfort in other upper body areas: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
Shortness of breath: This can occur with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs: Other potential signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness, or extreme fatigue.
Not all people who have heart attacks experience the same symptoms or experience them to the same degree. Some people have mild pain, while others have more severe pain. Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but many start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.
A key point to remember is that even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out. Minutes matter, and fast action can save lives. Call 911 if you experience any of these symptoms.
Recognizing the signs of a heart attack is crucial. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to heart health. Fast action can make all the difference, potentially saving a life or limiting damage to the heart muscle.
This post was written by a medical professional at The Wellness Firm. The Wellness Firm provides onsite Flu Shots, onsite rapid COVID event testing, employee physical examination, and American Heart Association CPR certification classes. We have professionals that provide in-person hands-on, quality training.