A heart attack occurs when a part of the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough blood. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), every 36 seconds, one person dies from a heart attack in the United States. (1) While chest pain and shortness of breath are the most common heart attack symptoms, there are silent symptoms that you may not notice. Let’s look at the top eight common symptoms of a heart attack, including the subtle ones.
The feeling of dizziness is prevalent among aged people. While it’s mainly caused by tiredness and not usually life-threatening, dizziness can be a sign of a heart attack or stroke. You can also experience other symptoms like nausea and shortness of breath or even faint.
Although men may get dizzy before a heart attack, this symptom is a more common sign in women.
Be sure to seek immediate medical attention if you feel dizzy. Drink a cup of water or eat some vitamin D-rich foods like spinach or nuts to ease the symptom when waiting for medical help.
2. Shortness of Breath
According to The Heart Foundation, shortness of breath is more prevalent in men than women. While this symptom doesn’t always show cardiac problems, it’s one of the most common heart attack symptoms. (2)
The research showed that the possibility of experiencing this symptom depends on the person’s weight, mental health, and other factors. (3)
Although a healthy diet can help manage shortness of breath, it’s not recommended to eat anything during this period. Ensure you stay outdoors or open your windows to let fresh air in.
3. Severe Chest Pain
Chest pain is a common heart disease sign. The tissues don’t get enough blood because of the insufficient blood flow to the heart muscles caused by a blocked coronary artery.
This symptom lasts for several seconds or minutes and is as common in men as in women. Men are more likely to have chest discomfort, whereas most women experience heartburn.
One study revealed that chest pain is the most common complaint during heart attacks. Like other symptoms, this pain isn’t always associated with a heart attack. If you often experience chest pain, talk to your doctor to find out the root cause. (4)
4. Tingling or Discomfort in Neck, Jaw, or Other Body Parts
When a heart attack occurs, the pain can also occur in the back, jaw, neck, throat, or arm. This pain is more common in men than in women and, in most cases, isn’t linked to a heart attack. It doesn’t mean you should ignore it, though. (2)
The pain in these areas can either be a sharp sensation or a dull ache. These body parts are usually the first places to be affected during a heart attack. When observing these pains, look out for subsequent symptoms and seek medical support immediately.
5. Unexplained Tiredness
If you notice you feel exhausted after performing your usual daily tasks like climbing stairs or taking walks, it’s a sign of an underlying heart problem. This occurs because your heart is working harder to pump blood. Women are more likely to experience unexplained tiredness than men.
Chronic fatigue has nothing to do with unexplained tiredness, though. Although you require medical attention to correct this heart disease symptom, eating nuts (e.g., cashews and almonds) and seeds (e.g., pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds), and drinking lots of water will help you beat fatigue.
6. Cardiac Rhythm Disturbances
Abnormal heartbeats, also known as arrhythmia, are a common heart disease symptom in both men and women. You might notice that your heart is beating faster or irregularly, and in most cases, you will also get dizzy. Whether this disturbance is associated with a heart attack or not, you still need to get medical attention.
During an attack, you might not experience a change in your heartbeat. However, during attacks caused by infarction (tissue death due to blood supply failure) of the right coronary artery, the heart rate might slow down. Other factors like medication or underlying conditions can affect heart rate.
Irregular heartbeats can happen during panic attacks, too. You can fix your irregular heartbeat by taking deep breaths and keeping calm to avoid stress and anxiety. While dieting can help prevent an attack, it may not be enough to reduce it. To prevent this symptom, cut down on caffeine (coffee) and alcohol intake and smoke less.
7. Unexplained Sweating
People who are about to experience a heart attack have unexplained sweating. This cold sweat symptom is more prevalent in women.
Unexplained sweating is called diaphoresis, a prevalent symptom of a heart attack. It’s caused by the activation of your sympathetic nervous system to compensate for the decrease in the strength of your heartbeat caused by heart disease.
However, the sympathetic nervous system increases the heart rate and force of heart contraction. Other symptoms like excessive sweating and dry mouth also appear.
One way to manage this symptom is by drinking a lot of water and incorporating sweat-reducing foods like bananas and sweet potatoes into your diet.
8. Nausea and Vomiting
Researchers have provided several theories on the cause of vomiting associated with heart attacks.
The heart cells from the damaged areas because of poor blood supply release lactic acid, pyruvic acid, and other metabolites. These metabolites cause stimulation that leads to vomiting. (5)
Although various theories exist, they all conclude that vomiting and nausea are heart attack symptoms. Seek medical attention when you notice this symptom. But you can also control and relieve these symptoms by drinking clear or ice-cold drinks, eating light foods, and getting lots of rest.
What Should You Do If You Notice Any of These Symptoms?
Reach out to someone nearby to call emergency services, or do it yourself if you can. You may feel awake and capable of driving yourself to the hospital, but a heart attack can cause you severe pain. If you can’t wait for the emergency services, ask someone to drive you.
After you call for emergency services, you might have to answer questions about your allergies and the medications that you’re currently taking. If you have no allergy to aspirin, you will be asked to chew on it or ingest nitroglycerin tablets to stabilize the condition until help arrives.
Sometimes it’s hard to detect heart attack symptoms. One thing you can do to prepare in case of a heart attack is to have medically prescribed aspirin or nitroglycerin in your home. Although a heart attack is life-threatening, these medications can help you feel better.