Early Signs & Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Men And Women
Cardiovascular diseases claim over 17.3 million lives per year worldwide, and the number is projected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030. This makes heart diseases the number one cause of death in the world. In the US alone, 2,150 Americans die each day from heart diseases. That’s one every 40 seconds!
To put things into perspective: heart diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer…combined. That’s scary to say the least. Focusing on heart attacks, it is worth noting that every year 635,000 people in the US have a first time heart attack, while about 300,000 have recurrent heart attacks. This statistic is concerning as well.
The reason that so many people suffer from heart attacks is probably their life style coming back to haunt them. Their extremely stressful routine paired with an improper diet and lack of exercise can be huge catalysts for heart attacks. It seems as if the greater the stress, the greater the chance of heart failure. How can you then stop or prevent such illness? Firstly, leading a healthy lifestyle is the best piece of advice we can offer you. A healthy lifestyle consists of a lifestyle with lower stress levels, balanced diet, and proper physical exercise. Secondly, knowing the symptoms of a heart attack about a month in advance might be your best weapon against the illness.
“What is a heart attack?” This video explains how a heart attack happens.
Signs and Symptoms
Chest pain is the most common sign of a heart attack. You may feel pressure and discomfort in the center of your chest or below your breastbone. This pain normally lasts more than a minute and can go away and return. It may even travel into the shoulder, neck, arm, jaw and back.
Shortness of Breath
Lack of exercise and gradual weight gain can cause this problem. Women are most likely to suffer from shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea than men. If you are gasping for air for no obvious reason, you could be having a heart attack. The shortness of breath may worsen when lying down and improve when standing up.
Some people may feel tired even when they have been sitting on the couch all day. Just walking to the bathroom, going to the mall or making dinner gets you extremely tired. You will also have difficulties sleeping even when you have been feeling tired all day.
Cold or Flu
Many people who have had a heart attack are reported to suffer from cold-like symptoms before the attack. So if you are suffering from cold and have unusual chest pain, you can expect yourself to experience a heart attack anytime soon.
Nausea is seen as a sign of a heart attack in women. This feeling is reported to be more common in females than in males. Indigestion, burping, and belching are normal. Vomiting is also noticed in some people.
Sweating is a common sign to be reported by the people suffering from a heart attack. You may sweat more than normal without any physical activities. Breaking out in a cold sweat for no apparent reason is definitely not a good sign.
Heartburn and Indigestion
Is it a heartburn or a heart attack? A heart attack delivers pain to the upper middle abdominal area, similar to the pain delivered by heartburn. So many people may confuse heart attack for heartburn. Not just this, some people might also notice feelings of indigestion, prior to a heart attack.
Some people may have a heart attack without exhibiting any symptoms from above. Almost a quarter of heart attacks are recorded to be silent. This is common among people suffering from diabetes mellitus.
Causes of a heart attack
As we age, the chances of suffering from a heart disease increase. The odds of having a heart attack in men is reported to increase after 45. For women, it is 55.
Smoking causes blood vessels to narrow. So when the supply of blood to the heart becomes less, the chances of having a heart attack increases. Smoking is the cause of about 36 percent of coronary artery disease. Tobacco disease and air pollution are also accountable for heart attacks.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can cause long term damage to the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a common disease caused by the deposition of fatty materials in the inner walls of the arteries. High blood pressure with smoking will double your chances of suffering from a heart disease.
High Blood Cholesterol
If you eat a meal high in saturated fat, your chances of suffering from a heart disease increase. High blood cholesterol increases the risk of developing blood clots in the arteries.
Our pancreas secretes a hormone called “insulin.” Insulin helps our body store and use glucose. But when we suffer from diabetes, we stop producing sufficient insulin. This causes our blood sugar level to rise, which in turn damages our coronary arteries. People with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease.
Obesity is not directly associated with developing a heart disease. But when a person is overweight, their risk of suffering from diabetes increases. Not only this, they have an increased chance of developing high blood pressure and a higher cholesterol level.
Lack of exercise
Lack of exercise is also not directly related to heart attack. However, when a person is not physically active, they have greater risks of suffering from high blood pressure. They can also be overweight when they don’t separate some time to exercise.
Drinking alcohol excessively will contribute to increasing blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. This in turn increases the risks of developing coronary heart disease.
Family History of Heart Attack
If your parents or sibling suffered from heart disease, then you are twice as likely to show similar problems compared to the general population.
Ethnicity and Sex
People of African and African-Caribbean accent are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes. This makes them more vulnerable to a heart attack. Also, people from South Asian decent (from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh origin) are five times likely to suffer from diabetes. Again, this too increases their chances of developing a heart disease.
Men have an increased risk of suffering from a heart attack than women. Men are 2-3 times likely to suffer from a heart attack than women.
Heart attack symptoms in men
An astounding number of men are in the risk of developing a heart disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about 20 percent of U.S. men smoke. This causes their blood vessels to narrow. In 2015, about 205 million of the men were reported to be obese.
Chest pain is the most common sign of heart attack in men. There is intense pain and discomfort in the chest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported that about 50 percent of men died of heart disease because of the lack of symptoms. So it is recommended to have regular checkups even when you’re in perfect health.
Heart attack symptoms in women
While chest pain is the warning sign of a heart attack, women may not experience chest pain at all. “Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure,” said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer.
Instead of chest pain, women may experience shortness of breath, pain in the upper abdomen or lower chest, lightheadedness or dizziness, fainting, upper back pain or extreme fatigue.
What should you do if you have a heart attack?
During a heart attack, symptoms last 30 minutes or longer and the pain will not be relieved by any medications. So you should call for help immediately when you start noticing symptoms. Medics will try to open the blocked artery to lessen the damage. The ideal time to treat a heart attack is within the first two hours of experiencing the symptoms. Waiting for any longer will only worsen your condition.
Heart Attack Treatment
The medic will give you an aspirin immediately after a heart attack. Aspirin helps reduce blood clotting and helps to maintain blood flow through a narrowed artery.
This drug helps to dissolve a clot blocking the blood flow to the heart. It is also known as “clot busters.”
3) Antiplatelet agents
These drugs help prevent new clots from happening and also make sure that the existing clots don’t get larger.
4) Blood-thinning medications
Doctors will give you other blood thinning medications to make your blood less sticky and less likely to form clots.
5) Pain relievers
Medics will give you a pain reliever to ease your pain
6) Beta blockers
These drugs slow your heartbeat, decrease blood pressure and help your heart muscle to relax. They also limit the heart muscle damage and prevent possible future heart attacks.
7) ACE inhibitors
These medications reduce stress on heart muscle by lowering blood pressure.
This drug improves blood flow by widening the blood vessels in the heart.
Surgery and other procedures
Angioplasty and stents
After the doctor gives medications to relax you, he will numb the area where the catheter will go. He will then insert a plastic tube called sheath in an artery- maybe in your groin or in your arm. Next, he will pass the catheter through the sheath. This catheter has a balloon at the end. Doctors use X-ray to guide the catheter to the artery, and when it reaches there, they inflate the balloon to open the narrowed artery.
Coronary artery bypass surgery
Your doctor will suggest bypass surgery after three to seven days from your heart attack. A surgeon will remove a blood vessel from your chest or leg. He will then attach one end of the vessel to your aorta, and the other end to an artery below the blockage. This creates a new route for your blood to travel. The process takes about three to six hours on average.
How to prevent a heart attack
Heart attacks mostly occur as a result of coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a condition where waxy substances accumulate in the arteries. So you prevent a heart attack if you make some small changes in your lifestyle.
Smoking causes blood vessels to narrow. You should avoid smoking and be cautious of air pollution if you want to live a healthy life.
Go for regular checkups
As discussed earlier, a heart attack may strike without warning. So it is recommended that you go for regular checkups to avoid the symptoms of a heart attack.
Keep your weight under control
If you are able to maintain a healthy weight, then you won’t have to worry about suffering from diabetes. This lessens your chance of developing a heart disease.
Regular exercise keeps your blood pressure under control. Controlled blood pressure means less risk of getting struck with a heart attack.
Stress contributes tremendously to develop heart diseases. So try to get some time off from your hectic schedule if you can.
Drink alcohol moderately
Drinking alcohol in an uncontrolled manner increases blood pressure. The recommended intake of alcohol for adults above 65, is one drink a day. For adults below 65, it’s two drinks a day.
Eat a healthy diet
If your diet contains a high amount of saturated fat, then your blood cholesterol level will rise. Too much salt in your food will also increase your blood pressure. So try to eat a healthy diet to minimize the chances of suffering from a heart attack.
A heart attack affects millions of people worldwide. Please SHARE this post so that everyone has a basic knowledge of heart attacks.