A heart attack happens when a blockage in your coronary artery causes part of your heart muscle to be starved of blood and oxygen, and most heart attacks occur when a blood clot forms inside the artery after a fatty deposit (called atheroma) has broken off from the artery wall. Early treatment to get the blood flowing to the damaged part of your heart muscle again can save your life and limit the amount of permanent damage to your heart muscle, explains the British Heart Foundation.
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Spotting the warning signs is therefore essential to improving your outcome and according to the information site Bright Side, crucial symptoms might occur one month (or even earlier) before a heart attack.
Here are five key signs to watch out for:
Unusual fatigue is one of the main symptoms that indicates an impending heart attack, and women are more likely to report this type of symptom than men, explains Bright Side.
“Physical or mental activity is not the reason for the fatigue, and it increases by the end of the day,” notes the website.
This symptom can manifest itself when trying to perform simple tasks, such as making a bed or taking a shower, it notes.
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“Abdominal pains before a heart attack have an episodic nature, easing and then returning for short periods of time,” explained Bright Side.
According to Mayo Clinic, pain that may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.
Insomnia is also associated with an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke and is more common among women, says Bright Side.
Studies have found significant associations between insomnia and heart attack risk including one published in European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, which found analysed 15 studies with a total of 160, 867 participants.
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The study found significant associations between difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, and non-restorative sleep and the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Shortness of breath
Breathlessness often occurs among both men and women for up to six months prior to having a heart attack and it’s usually a warning sign of a medical condition, according to Bright Side.
According to Professor Peter Weissberg, former Medical Director of the BHF and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, feeling out of breath while doing everyday activities, especially if you haven’t experienced this before, could be a sign of a potentially serious heart condition.
“It’s important to take breathlessness seriously and talk to your doctor as soon as possible,” he said.
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Unusual or excessive sweating is an early warning sign of a heart attack and it might occur at any time of the day or night, explains Bright Side.
“This symptom affects women more often and is usually confused with the hot flashes or night sweats typical of menopause,” the site said.
As the BHF explains, working up a sweat when you’ve been to the gym or because it’s a really hot day, is nothing to worry about.
“But feeling hot and clammy along with chest pain is a sign that you should call an ambulance,” it said.
What do I do if I think I’m having a heart attack?
According to the BHF, The first thing you must do is dial 999 immediately for an ambulance if you think you are having a heart attack.
“Don’t worry if you’re not completely sure whether the symptoms are a heart attack, it’s really important that you seek medical attention regardless as quickly as possible,” said the health body.
If you’re having a heart attack or you think you’re having a heart attack:
- Sit down and rest
- Take a 300mg aspirin if you have one within arm’s reach
- Stay calm and wait for the paramedics
“People often dismiss that they’re having a heart attack and will delay seeking medical attention,” it added.
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