Every year, almost eight hundred thousand people in North America suffer a heart attack. Many survive but some do not, especially if they’ve had more than one. A heart attack is most often indicative of coronary heart disease, which is a cumulative deterioration of the heart and circulatory system. When arteries get clogged with plaque, undue pressure is put on the heart to process blood. As a muscle, the heart itself can become weakened and stop working properly.
A “heart attack” (myocardial infarction) can be caused by either coronary thrombosis (an arterial blood clot) or blocked blood supply to the heart.
The experience of a heart attack is different for everyone; there isn’t always sharp pain—sometimes it’s a general slow breakdown with mild symptoms. Knowing the signs of a heart attack can help you to take steps to stave it off.
Here’s what to look out for; if you experience one or more, see your doctor—don’t wait.
1. Chest pressure
This is the most common symptom of coronary distress. Pressure, tightness, palpitations, or pain in the chest, upper abdomen, back, neck, jaw, arm, and/or shoulder are indications that blood supply has been limited.
2. Cold and flu symptoms
Coughing and wheezing are your body’s ways of trying to get blood flowing. A general feeling of “coming down with something”—especially in the presence of other symptoms—is a tell-tale sign that your heart is sick.
Sudden onset of regular sweating or clammy skin for no apparent reason is often a precursor to a heart attack. Dizziness is caused by lack of blood flow to the brain.