In Hong Kong and Hollywood movies, a heart-attack victim suddenly clutches at hisor her chest, gasps for breath and dies within several seconds! This is drama at its best. In real life, however, symptoms like chest pain can appear several hours before the actual attack.
Myocardial infarction: this is the medical term for a heart attack. What is a heart attack? Just like other organs of the body, the heart needs oxygen. The oxygen is carried to the heart from the lungs by arteries. When there is a blockage in the arteries, a certain part of the heart suffers from lack of oxygen. The cells in the affected part start to die. This condition is now a heart attack.
Most heart attacks result from a blockage in the arteries. Usually the blockage is caused by atherosclerosis, which is a a medical term for build-up of fatty deposits called plaque. As a result, the artery walls begin to harden. A heart attack can also be caused by a blood clot forming in a coronary artery, blocking blood flow. Clots are especially likely to form where there are plaques that become cracked or damaged in any way.
Not all heart attacks are sudden and intense; some heart attack victims feel some warning signs several hours or even days leading to the attack. Please be alert to the common symptoms of an impending heart attack:
- Discomfort or pain in the centre of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back.
- Pain extending from the chest into the jaw, left arm or left shoulder.
- Feeling of tightness in the chest Shortness of breath for several seconds either with or without chest discomfort
- Breaking out in a cold sweat or feeling nausea or light headedness
- Feeling extreme fatigue all of a sudden
- Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats in layman terms
The warning signs above should not be ignored. If you suspect you are having heart problems or a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately. The sooner you get treatment, the greater the chances of preventing further damage to the heart muscle. As with men, the most common sign of a heart attack in women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea and pain in the back or jaw pain.
It should be pointed out that not all heart attacks are severe. Some mild heart attacks are dismissed as heartburn or angina. However, distinguishing a heart attack from heartburn is not that easy as antacids can actually relieve heart attack pain, though it usually returns quickly. Usually, heart attack symptoms are more severe and longer-lasting than angina. If the pain gets worse, feels different than usual, or last more than 20 minutes, don’t take risks – seek medical attention.