Recognizing Both Common and Overlooked Signs of a Heart Attack

May 7th 2016

In the United States, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both women and men and claims more than 800,000 lives annually as of 2015, according to the American Heart Association. Many of these deaths can be prevented if individuals recognize common and overlooked signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

Common Signs of a Heart Attack

The most common symptoms and warning signs of a heart attack include pain or discomfort on the left side or center of the chest for more than a few minutes. Chest pain often goes away and returns in mild and severe forms. The discomfort is comparable to a squeezing or pressure-filled pain.

Less Common Signs of a Heart Attack

Some individuals may also experience shortness of breath with chest pain when a heart attack is on the horizon. The shortness of breath may occur while resting or when engaged in physical activity. Upper body pain is also a warning sign of a heart attack. For example, people may feel pain in the upper part of the stomach, in one or both arms, and throughout the back, shoulders, neck and jaw.

Overlooked Signs of a Heart Attack

Although chest pain is often the most common indication of a heart attack, many overlooked symptoms exist. Some people may experience waves of nausea, cramps, diarrhea and stomach cramps that are similar to symptoms of food poisoning or the stomach flu. A sudden hot flash or temperature spike within the body could be a sign of a heart attack. Extreme fatigue or exhaustion may be a symptom even if it begins a few months prior to the heart attack.

In addition to exhaustion, some people face insomnia or sleeplessness because their adrenaline level is high, especially in women, who may experience racing thoughts or bursts of energy in between bouts of exhaustion weeks before a heart attack occurs.

Although some symptoms of a heart attack may be characteristic of other illnesses or ailments, patients should know the possibilities and consult with a physician if unexplained symptoms occur.

Sources

nhlbi.nih.gov "Heart Attack Signs" http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heartattack/signs
forbes.com "10 Often Missed Signs of a Heart Attack in Women" http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2012/01/30/10-often-overlooked-signs-of-heart-attack-in-women-the-amas-viral-video-gets-it-right/
agingcare.com "Overlooked Heart Attack Symptoms" http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/Overlooked-Heart-Attack-Symptoms-149514.htm

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