Contrary to popular opinion, a heart attack does not show clear-cut symptoms like clutching your chest due to severe chest pain. Heart attacks are silent, and most of the time, like 25% of them happen silently and they do not have any clear, nor recognizable symptoms.
Our hearts do warn us of potential heart attacks before they happen. They can do it weeks, days or even minutes before it happens. There are some major red flags that we need to keep in check in order to save ourselves in the event of a cardiac arrest.
What Are the Common Causes of Heart Attacks?
Heart attacks occur when there is a sudden blockage of blood supply to part of the heart muscle. The blocked artery usually occurs due to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or plaque build up in the coronary arteries. Plaque build up can lead to heart attack if it gets large enough to completely block the flow of blood through the arteries.
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases account for about 30 percent of all deaths globally. In 2016 alone, approximately 17 million people died from cardiovascular diseases.
Atherosclerosis is a chronic disease which affects the lining of the arteries. As the cholesterol level rises inside the arteries, it starts accumulating on the walls of the arteries forming plaques. These plaques gradually narrow down the lumen of the arteries causing them to become clogged.
- Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease is the main reason behind heart attacks. A person suffering from coronary artery disease has narrowed or obstructed arteries in his/her heart. If the arteries get blocked, lack of oxygen rich blood occurs and it cannot reach the heart muscles.
- Cardiac Arrest
Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency where the heart stops beating. It is very rare but it can happen at anytime. It is caused by several factors such as:
- An arrhythmia
- Electrical shock
- Sudden loss of consciousness
- Drug Abuse
Common Heart Attack Symptoms
- Cold sweat
- Sudden collapse
- Chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
Heart Attack Warning Signs You Should Know
Many people who have experienced heart attacks say that they had an anxiety attack before the heart attack happened. Even though some people think that they are having this heart condition when they are actually having an anxiety attack, it is still better to be safe than sorry.
Swelling of ankles and feet is mainly connected with sitting or standing too much. However, what most people do not know is that heart failure can cause accumulated fluid in the body. It can also cause swelling of the abdomen, legs, ankles and feet. Therefore, some people retain so much fluid that they gain weight suddenly. When this occurs, they seem to lose their appetite.
As symptoms of heart failure some people will start coughing blood, some of them might wheeze or have a nagging cough. This is due to the buildup in the lungs. It is of great importance to pay attention to these symptoms.
Pain in Other Body Parts
For most of the sufferers the pain starts in the chest and then it spreads to the jaw, back, shoulders, arms and abdomen. However, bear in mind that sometimes there is no chest pain, but there is some pain in other body parts. The most common ones are pain in one or both arms or between the shoulder blades. Yes, the pain may come and go, but that does not mean that it is not serious.
These 4 signs, are those who are hidden and not that obvious, however, there are common signs too which will indicate that a heart attack is coming.
The above symptoms should not be ignored and considered when thinking about a heart attack. Now let’s move to the general risk factors and prevention of heart attack.
Risk Factors of a Heart Disease
- Having a family history of heart disease means that you are more likely to develop heart problems like coronary artery disease, stroke, weak heart muscle or ventricular fibrillation. This includes high blood pressure, diabetes, abnormal heart rhythm, stroke and other heart related issues.
- Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. Smoking causes plaque build up on arteries and reduces the ability of the heart to pump blood. If you smoke, stop smoking immediately.
- Obese people are at higher risks for heart disease because obesity puts extra stress on the heart. Obesity leads to increased cholesterol levels in the blood stream, which can increase the chances of developing heart disease.
- If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor needs to make sure that you take your medications regularly. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks and strokes if left untreated.
- If you have diabetes, you should monitor your blood sugar levels closely. Diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves and affect how well the heart pumps and ensures normal blood flow.
- People who are physically inactive are at greater risk for heart disease. Exercise helps keep your heart healthy by reducing your overall fat percentage, strengthening your muscles and improving your endurance.
How to Prevent a Heart Attack?
Preventing a heart attack is very important because it can be fatal for you at any moment. So, here are some tips on how to prevent heart attack symptoms:
Smoking causes clogged arteries which leads to a heart attack. If you smoke, quit now!
Regular physical activity helps in keeping your body fit and healthy. It also keeps your blood pressure under control and keep your heart tissue healthy.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will help keep your heart healthy. This can also help you avoid unnecessary weight gain.
Get enough sleep
Sleep plays an important role in maintaining our health. Lack of sleep can cause stress and anxiety that may lead to a heart attack.
Stress is one of the major reasons for heart attacks. Learn ways to manage your stress levels.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of having a heart attack. Being thin is not always good either. A healthy weight range is between the BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.
Check Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is another big contributor for heart attacks. Keep track of your blood pressure and take medication if needed.
Quit Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol consumption has been linked with increased chances of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks.
Reduce Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol levels increase the chance of having a heart attack by 50%. The best way to lower your cholesterol level is through regular exercises and eating a balanced diet.
Don’t forget about your emotional well being
Having a positive attitude towards life and living positively will make sure that you stay away from all kinds of illnesses including heart attacks.
Please note that you must not ignore these signs by hoping that they will disappear. Also, if they last more than 10 minutes, please contact 911 or find someone to drive you to the hospital for necessary cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Another way to go is to chew some aspirin and swallow it, except if you are allergic to it, of course.
It is always important to identify the common symptoms of a heart attack for faster treatment. Lastly, make sure to have an external defibrillator located around you in public area in case there is an unconscious person needing emergency treatment.