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Identifying a Heart Attack Symptom: From Chest Pain to Anxiety

Heart attacks happen so often and can affect anyone no matter what their ethnicity, race, or sex. I am sure you know at least one person, either a friend, family member, or an acquaintance who has experienced a heart attack. A heart attack symptom can vary depending on age, gender and if the person has a chronic disease so it’s vital to know all the facts. That’s why it is important to learn more about heart attacks to understand how they occur and why. Knowing the heart attack warning signs could save your life or the life of someone else.
We are going to talk about heart attack symptoms, how to spot them, and what to do when you feel like you’re having one.

This blog will take you through how to prevent a heart attack for optimum heart health. We’ll discuss the risk factors. Also, if you or a loved one has already experienced a heart attack, we have included information on recovery and the next steps.

What Is a Heart Attack?

What stops blood pumping to the heart?

The heart muscle needs the blood vessels to bring oxygen to it to survive. This oxygen-rich blood flows to the heart by the coronary arteries. When the blood flow decreases or the arteries are blocked then you experience a heart attack. It could be partially or fully blocked for a heart attack to occur. The medical term for a heart attack is myocardial infarction (MI).

The heart arteries or coronary arteries can be blocked when matter like cholesterol, other substances, and fat accumulates in them over time. These are commonly referred to as plaques and the medical term for their accumulation is atherosclerosis. A blocked coronary artery is a slow process which is why there are no early warning signs and symptoms. When the plaque breaks as it gets damaged, platelets are let loose causing a blood clot to be formed. These blood clots then cluster around the plaque which blocks blood flow because there is no space to pump blood through the artery. When the blood flow is slowed down the heart muscle tissue gets damaged significantly and then a heart attack occurs. Once the blood is decreased the areas of blockage cause damage to that heart muscle and could even destroy it over time.

There are two types of blockages:

Partial Blockage

A non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction(NSTEMI). Blood flow is still dangerously low in the blood vessels and can cause permanent damage to the heart muscles and heart.

Full Blockage

A ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) whereby quite a big area of the heart muscle is not getting blood via the blood vessel, causing a lot of damage. It is a critical heart attack requiring prompt treatment to restore blood flow and dissolve blood clots in the blocked artery.

It’s important to note the longer it takes to improve blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle. This heart muscle might die if it doesn’t receive the proper treatment on time.

How Long Does a Heart Attack Last?

Once a heart attack starts the symptoms last as long as 10 minutes. They may also stop and start again for a couple of hours. Heart attacks can involve pain or discomfort but a lot of the time symptoms of a heart attack won’t be as acute. The warning signs can be different from person to person.

Types of Heart Attacks

Once you have a heart attack the heart muscle is damage could lead to different things:

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

The heart stops beating completely but this doesn’t mean death. The person doesn’t respond to being spoken to or touched, they are not moving, and it appears that they are not breathing. Performing CPR or using a defibrillator needs to occur.

Cardiogenic Shock

The heart goes into shock and stops pumping blood throughout the body because the heart muscle is extremely damaged and can’t function as it should. This is a medical emergency that could lead to organ failure if not treated immediately to restore blood flow.

Post-cardiac Injury Syndrome (PCIS)

Also called Dressler Syndrome or Post-myocardial Infarction Syndrome. The pericarditis which is the sac-like tissue surrounding the heart inflames. This inflammation is the body’s immune system response to the injury caused by the heart attack.

Heart Failure

Sometimes known as congestive heart failure, this occurs when the heart cannot pump blood as it normally would from either being too weak or too stiff. This usually becomes a chronic condition requiring other means to pump the blood.

Arrhythmias

The electric signals moving through the heart are in disarray which changes the way the heart beats. The result is a fast or uneven heartbeat.

What Causes Heart Attacks?

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Coronary artery disease or ischemic heart disease and is the main cause of heart attacks. Often people only know they have this once they have already had a heart attack.

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)

This heart attack happens when the coronary artery tears inside. Commonly occurs in people with Marfan Syndrome, pregnant women, and people under 50.

Cardiac Ischemia

Blood flow reduces giving the heart muscle limited oxygen. This leads to that muscle becoming damaged and when that happens a heart attack occurs.

Coronary Artery Spasm

When the blood vessel isn’t blocked but is squeezed extensively the coronary artery starts to spasm causing a heart attack. This can be caused by illegal drugs smoking etc. Also called unstable angina, variant angina, Prinzmetal’s angina, silent heart attacks, or vasospastic angina. There is generally no permanent damage caused but it does increase the risk of a more severe heart attack in the future.

Infection

Viral infections can damage heart muscles which can cause a heart attack e.g. COVID-19, and influenza. Also, parasites, bacteria, and fungal infections.

Heart Attack Symptoms

The warning signs of heart attacks involve discomfort, especially chest discomfort as we are led to believe but the symptoms of a heart attack can be very different. Heart attack symptoms could occur straight away or even weeks before ranging from mild pain to crushing pain. Sometimes people experience no visible symptoms because it is too early to feel anything as the plaque starts to build up. It differs from person to person but generally, the more symptoms someone is experiencing then the greater the chance that they are having a heart attack.

High Anxiety

Rapid heart rate and fast breathing that feels very much like a panic attack.

Shortness of breath

Trouble breathing and there may be no signs of chest pains when this occurs but often it follows after.

Fatigue

An extreme lack of energy makes it difficult to move.

Chest Discomfort

Chest pain warning of a heart attack.

Chest pain or discomfort feels like an ache, uncomfortable pressure, squeezing tightness, or chest pain on the left side or in the middle of the chest. It might also feel like a sharp pain but that is not a common symptom. The chest pain will not be constant, it will come and go.

Wheezing or coughing

Fluid starts to build up in the lungs causing cardiac asthma.

Vomiting or Nausea

This isn’t a very common symptom but sometimes people experience extreme nausea causing them to vomit.

Feeling Faint, Unexpected Dizziness, or Light-headedness

The lack of oxygen pumping through the blood causes this.

Body Pain

Pain or discomfort that spreads to the upper stomach, across the shoulders, teeth, arm, jaw, back or neck, one or both arms but mostly the left arm. By moving any of these body parts the pain does not get worse.

Heartburn or Indigestion

Unlike the other symptoms of a heart attack, this is often a mild symptom.

Cold Sweat

You may experience a cold sweat or have clammy skin. Feels the same as sweating when one has the flu.

Heart Attack Warning Signs in Women

Lower back pain heart attack symptom.

A heart attack is different in women with unusual signs and symptoms. There is a significant difference between males and female heart attacks. Women commonly also don’t feel any chest pain when having a heart attack. Women commonly also don’t feel any chest pain when having a heart attack.

Symptoms include:

  • Short, acute pain in the back, neck, or arm

  • Cardiac arrest

  • Disturbances in sleep

  • Nausea

  • A sudden feeling of weakness that doesn’t go away

  • Extreme shortness of breath

  • Pain or discomfort all over the body

  • Digestive issues like indigestion

  • A feeling of unwellness

  • Upper body pain

  • Back pain

  • Jaw pain

Adults Older Than 65

Adults older than 65 generally have high blood pressure or diabetes. When they are having a heart attack, they may experience no symptoms and have a silent heart attack. There could be mild symptoms like slight shortness of breath and feeling a little tired, indigestion, and dizziness. Other symptoms typically found in women that may include pain or discomfort. An early warning sign is the pressure of chest pain that keeps occurring. This is caused by angina and is a sign that the blood flow to the heart is starting to decrease.

Heart Attack Versus Angina

Often the one is confused with the other because angina is a chest pain and people with this condition can experience the same symptoms as a heart attack. CAD can cause angina, but angina typically occurs during emotional stress or exercise. The difference is that medication can solve angina symptoms.

Heart Attack Risk Factors

There are a lot of risk factors that increase the chances of heart disease and thus the chances of experiencing a heart attack.

Autoimmune Disease

Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, etc because they attack organs in the body including the heart.

High cholesterol

This is the bad cholesterol that starts to build up as plaque in the arteries called Low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

Age

Women aged 55 and older and men aged 45 and older have higher risk factors for a heart attack.

Preeclampsia

Occurs during pregnancy and raises their blood pressure often resulting in them being a heart attack risk later in life.

Excessive alcohol

Regular excessive drinking raises blood pressure, putting strain on the heart and increasing the chance of heart disease and thus a heart attack.

Metabolic Syndrome

This combines at least three of the following: high blood sugar, enlarged waist (central obesity), high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and low good cholesterol.

Smoking

Second hand smoke is as big a risk.

Exposure to a lot of second-hand smoke puts you at risk and this includes all tobacco products. The smoke damages the blood vessels in the heart, reduces the oxygen in your blood, and raises your blood pressure.

Illegal Drugs

Amphetamines and cocaine stimulate not just the mind but also the body to extremes and could lead to a coronary artery spasm and then a heart attack.

Family History

If your family history includes heart attacks, then your risk factor increases especially if those heart attacks occurred in family members who were younger than 65.

Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

The arteries can start becoming damaged with these conditions.

Stress

Dealing with stress is important for good mental health.

Pent-up emotions, especially anger may contribute to a heart attack over time.

Lack of Exercise

Leading an inactive lifestyle decreases the health of your heart as blood flow is reduced over time.

Triglycerides and High Cholesterol

Triglycerides are a type of blood fat that accumulates in the arteries due to high cholesterol levels.

Diet

An unhealthy diet with lots of salt, sugar, trans and saturated fats, animal fats and processed foods leads to blockages and heart disease.

Diabetes

People with this disease generally also have high cholesterol and high blood pressure which increases their heart attack risk.

How to Prevent a Heart Attack

Maintaining healthy lifestyle changes is the key to ensuring you can keep your heart healthy.

Manage Stress

Try things like yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, and therapy to help bring down your stress levels and promote better mental health.

Quit Smoking

If you live with people who do smoke, encourage them to also quit or at least make sure that you are not inhaling their second-hand smoke.

Exercise Often

All forms of exercise can be beneficial in preventing a heart attack.

Maintain a healthy weight and participate in physical activity often.

Sleep Enough

Ensure that you are sleeping enough, at least seven hours or more a night. Not getting enough sleep means your body doesn’t rest enough and can put a strain on your organs. It also has adverse effects on your memory, eating habits, and mood.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Make sure your diet is varied and full of nutrients. Incorporate whole grains, vegetables, low-fat dairy, fruits, nuts, legumes, skinless poultry, and fatty fish into your diet. Avoid sugar including those in beverages, oily foods that are full of trans fats and saturated fats, and processed and red meat.

Refrain from Alcohol

Cut out using alcohol completely.

Chronic Health Condition Management

If you have CAD or have any other health conditions that put you at high risk for a heart attack then make sure you are working with your physician to take the correct prescribed medicines.

Regular Monitoring

Monitor your blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels regularly.

When to Seek Emergency Medical Services

Go to the hospital straight away if you think you are having a heart attack because you need immediate treatment. Just having one of the many symptoms of a heart attack counts as a medical emergency. Call the local emergency number or have someone do that for you. It is best to call an ambulance because treatment starts as soon as you are in the vehicle. Emergency medical personnel can use an electric shock with an automated external defibrillator machine or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can sometimes help to get the blood pumping back to the heart.

Key Takeaways

Heart attacks are not going away anytime soon but there are ways to recognize them. I hope that you now feel well informed on what heart attacks are and what to do should you have one or are with someone experiencing one. This information can be lifesaving.

I trust that this blog post was able to give you more insight based on what you have learned so that you can live a healthier and longer life.

No matter what your health status is, it is never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes for better heart health to prevent future heart attacks.

4 thoughts on “Identifying a Heart Attack Symptom: From Chest Pain to Anxiety”

  1. Hello,
    I was on a medication metropolal low dose for arrhythmias / AFib. A few evenings ago my heart rate went down to 37. Dangerously low. I know the power of praise and worship so did that for a couple of minutes and it went up to 72. What a praise the Lord.

    I ordered the 3 bottles of detox and I haven’t heard if it went thru, about a week and a half ago.
    My email is ilovelucy7@live.com
    Thank you

    1. jamie mcgregor

      Hi Lucy!
      What a blessing hearing about your heart rate improving!
      Our helpful customer services team will be reaching out to you shortly with information regarding your order.

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