Heart attacks are frequently depicted as being a sudden, sharp, stabbing pain right before a person falls over. While this can be a sign, not all heart attacks are as dramatic. Being able to recognize and diagnose a heart attack will help you or your loved one receive the proper treatment as soon as possible.
What Happens During a Heart Attack?
People have a tendency to refer to all heart issues as a heart attack, but the reality is that a heart attack is very different from cardiac arrest, heart valve disease, or coronary heart disease. A heart attack occurs during any time that part of the heart is not getting enough blood. This typically happens because a blocked artery is not letting blood flow throughout each part of your heart. Without blood, parts of the heart do not get enough oxygen, so these areas of the heart begin to die over time. This damage can eventually lead to severe problems like your heart stopping.
What Are the Main Signs of a Heart Attack?
The key symptom of heart attacks is a feeling of pain or discomfort in the upper body. It can occur in the chest, shoulder, back, jaw, or arm region. For some people, this is a searing, stabbing pain. Others report that it feels more like being uncomfortably full, being squeezed, or being crushed. Keep in mind that heart attacks are generally a gradual process, so the pain will last for longer than a minute or come back after it goes away.
The cardiovascular system is closely linked to the respiratory system. When you have a heart attack, you may struggle to breathe. You may feel like you are choking, or you may just have rapid, short breaths. This symptom can occur either with or without chest pain.
Without enough blood pumping through your body, you will begin to feel very tired. Some people feel the urge to take a nap, while others feel like their muscles are suddenly too weak to move their body properly. Even though someone experiencing a heart attack is not doing anything physically difficult, sweating may occur.
During a heart attack, patients report feeling uncomfortably full. Many also find that they feel very nauseous and dizzy. Sometimes this dizziness and nausea are so bad that patients vomit.
Are Heart Attack Symptoms in Women Different?
Keep in mind that heart attacks do not always present themselves in the same way. Women can have normal heart attack symptoms, but they are also far more likely to suffer from slightly unusual signs. Instead of reporting chest pain, women tend to feel a sensation of pressure or squeezing in the back or shoulders. Women are also more likely to feel extreme fatigue or shortness of breath. Signs are often so subtle that women think they have the flu or acid reflux.
What Should You Do If You Have Heart Attack Symptoms?
If left untreated, a heart attack can cause cardiac arrest or other potentially fatal complications. Even if you are not sure you are having a heart attack, always seek treatment as soon as possible. The quicker you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can receive help and begin treatment. In most cases, it is best to call emergency medical services since they can treat you on the way to the hospital.
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