24 Sep Do I have Heart Attack? If So, Now What?
Do I have Heart Attack? If So, Now What?
By Island Hospital | Sep 24, 2019 11:05:43 AM
You are sweating bullets and need help to get up just two flights of stairs. You have no idea what is going on. However, you thought you are healthy and in great shape. So, you ask yourself, “What just happened?!”
If you do not know the answer, you are not alone. Many people feel scared, confused and overwhelmed after a heart attack and it is no surprise. You experienced a life changing event.
Although a heart attack is a frightening event, if you learn the signs of a heart attack and what steps to take, you can save a life—perhaps even your own.
A heart attack occurs when a blockage in one or more coronary arteries reduces or stops blood flow to the heart, which starves part of the heart muscle of oxygen. Heart muscle begins to die. This is technically called a “myocardial infarction,” meaning “death of heart muscle.” Blockage of a coronary artery deprives the heart muscle of blood and oxygen, causing injury to the heart muscle. This can weaken the heart and later cause life-threatening conditions such as heart failure.
The more time that passes without treatment, the greater the damage. The muscle of the heart that dies during a heart attack, cannot grow back or be repaired. Heart attacks can also affect your heart valves and cause leaks. The amount of time it takes to receive treatment and the area of damage will determine the long-term effects on your heart.
85% of heart damage occurs within the first two hours of a heart attack, so early detection and treatment is the key to saving lives.
Heart disease remains one of the leading killers in the world.
Our heart is the control centre for virtually everything in our body, keeping us alive, alert, and ready to conquer each new day. However, for many people, our hearts are doing more than just keeping our blood pumping —they are trying to send us a message.
Some people have warning signs, while others show no signs. You often don’t know you are having a silent heart attack. Many people don’t find out until weeks or months later or when they have a heart attack. A heart attack may be severe enough to cause death or it may be silent. As many as one out of every five people have only mild symptoms or none at all, and the heart attack may only be discovered by routine electrocardiography done sometime later.
Many people think that a heart attack is sudden and intense, like the heart attack portrayed in the movies, where a person clutches his or her chest and falls over. Warning signs may not be what you think. They can vary from person to person, and they may not always be sudden or severe.
The sooner you recognise a heart attack and get treatment, the better. It is vital to get treatment fast, to limit damage to your heart.
What symptoms can you look out for that might indicate a potential heart attack? These are the most common warning signs of a heart attack. You may have just one of these symptoms, or a combination. The more signs and symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you are having a heart attack. Not everyone has the same heart attack symptoms.
About 2 out of every 3 people who have heart attacks experienced:
- Discomfort or chest pain is the classic sign of a heart attack, yet many people do not realise this could be a medical emergency. During a heart attack, you will normally feel a heaviness, tightness or pressure in the chest, a sort of constricting feeling.
- About 1 out of every 3 people who have heart attacks do not feel any chest pain. These people are more likely to be women, older than 75, someone with heart failure or diabetes and someone who has had a stroke.
- A person who has angina (temporary chest pain) may find that it happens more often after less and less physical activity. A change in the pattern of angina should be taken seriously.
- Pain in other areas of the upper body During a heart attack, a person may feel pain in the middle of the chest that can spread to the back, jaw or arms. The pain may also be felt in all of these places and not the chest. Sometimes the pain is felt in the stomach area, where it may be taken for indigestion. The pain is like that of angina but usually more severe, longer lasting and does not get better by resting.
Other common symptoms include:
- Sudden sweating
You may find yourself suddenly drenched in perspiration for no apparent reason, or your face may be pale or pasty white.
- Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
You will feel a sensation of unease and discomfort in the stomach or even vomit.
- Shortness of breath
You could not catch your breath due to constant panting or inability to carry on a conversation due to sudden slurring of speech. If the heart muscle is not pumping effectively, pressure can build up within the lungs and the chambers of the heart, creating the sensation of breathlessness.
- Heavy & rapid pounding of the heart
If your heart starts beating unusually hard and suddenly pumping erratically for more than 10 minutes and get progressively worse.
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias),
which occur in more than 90% of the people who have had a heart attack
- Bluishness or numbness of the lips, hands or feet is an indication that blood is not reaching those areas.
- Different symptoms for men and women
Women do not always experience classic symptoms, like crushing chest or arm pain, and shortness of breath. Heart attack symptoms in women may be less dramatic and can include unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.
- Extreme Fatigue
It does not feel like you have not had enough sleep, but an extreme kind. It is like when you are unable to do simple tasks that are normally not an issue for you. A decrease in blood flow to the heart can deplete the body of energy and cause extreme tiredness.
- A consistent prolonged cough
Usually, a persistent cough does not indicate heart disease, but if you do have existing heart problems then you should be more alert. If you have a cough that is more prominent on lying down and on exertion and is accompanied by breathing difficulty, it could mean that the heart is not functioning properly causing blood to accumulate in the lungs.
Almost half of all heart attacks are silent, meaning they produce such subtle symptoms, that people do not realise they are having one. Usually people have some symptoms, but they do not know what it is. Silent heart attacks are dangerous because the people who have them do not get the medical attention they need, both in the moment and concerning future preventive care. The key to surviving a heart attack is to recognise the possible symptoms of a heart attack and to take quick action if you experience any of them.
Do not wait and think the symptoms will pass. “Time is muscle,” meaning the quicker a person can get help; the more of the heart muscle can be saved.
One of the biggest contributors to heart attack is a lack of commitment to a heart healthy lifestyle. Your lifestyle is not only your best defense against heart disease, it is also your responsibility.
There are many steps that you can do to take care of yourself so that you can continue to enjoy life.
- Reduce salt intake
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Lower high blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol level
- Stop smoking
- Control diabetes
- Eat a healthy diet
- Limit alcohol consumptions
- Regular check-ups
Island Hospital offers preventive, diagnostic and both nonsurgical and surgical treatments for heart disease.
In Island Hospital, our cardiologist treatments mostly focus on:
- Identify the underlying disorder that may be causing the heart attack
- Controlling the elements that can make the heart condition worse
- Treating the heart itself
To help you understand the better option type and methods of heart disease treatment and prevention, make an appointment to see any of our Cardiologists at Island Hospital.
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