All Heart Attack Articles

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Signs and Symptoms

According to the American Heart Association, heart attacks claim a victim approximately every 43 seconds. Because 80 percent of heart attacks occur in private, residential settings, it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms. Knowing the common signs of a heart attack can mean the difference between life and death because heart attacks require immediate medical attention.

If the symptoms aren’t the chest-crushing pain that you see in the movies, then many people dismiss them as temporary illnesses such as nausea or acid reflux and will try to “power through” the symptoms. This only leads to more heart damage, or even death.

The reason people may not know they are having a heart attack is because most heart attacks start out slowly with less common warning signs such as nausea or dizziness and the person doesn’t experience chest pain. They may feel weakness or fatigue, break into a cold sweat or become very pale and think it’s just a cold or flu coming on.

Here are some of the common signs that can mean a heart attack is happening, according to the American Heart Association:

  • Chest discomfort. The majority of heart attacks include discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. Sometimes the pain goes away and then returns. It can be an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Chest pain or discomfort is the most common heart attack symptom for both men and women.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. is may or may not be accompanied by chest discomfort.
  • Other signs. These could include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, paleness or lightheadedness.Overlooking the signs of a heart attack is more common among women. While chest pain with discomfort is the most common symptom of a heart attack, in many cases women don’t feel pain and pressure in their chest. As a result, their symptoms may not appear to be as severe as when men have heart attacks, and they may downplay their symptoms or don’t recognize them as signs of a heart attack. Some of the common signs for women include:
  • Pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
  • Upper back pressure
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

Because these aren’t classic heart attack symptoms, women may not recognize just how serious their condition is until the symptoms become more severe. By then, more heart damage has occurred and they may have waited too long to seek medical assistance to survive the attack.

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How to avoid a heart attack

There are two important areas to consider when it comes to preventing a first — or subsequent — heart attack. The first one is knowing your family history. Heart disease can have a genetic component and can cluster in families. If close relatives have had heart disease, this may put you at a higher risk for developing problems. Being aware of your family’s heart history and sharing that information with your doctor will allow you to work together to prevent a heart attack.

While you can’t control your family history, you can control another risk factor for heart attacks, and that is your lifestyle choices.
For instance, if you smoke, stop. If you drink alcohol in excess, limit it. Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise. All of these factors are within your control.

Choosing a heart-healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to give up all of your favorite meals, but it does mean you should consider controlling your portion sizes, eliminating processed foods (which are often loaded with unhealthy “trans” fats) and replacing saturated fats in your diet with the healthy ones.

A heart-healthy diet should include:

  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week (this would include salmon, tuna and trout)
  • Fruits
  • Legumes (kidney and lima beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, etc.)
  • Vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, asparagus and leafy greens such as spinach and kale
  • Whole grainsIt’s also important to learn the difference between “good fats” and “bad fats” so you can make sure you’re getting the proper kind in your diet. Avoid trans fats completely. Also look for heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Some of the foods with these fats are:
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive, canola, peanut, safflower, sesame oils
  • Peanut butter
  • Salmon and trout
  • Tofu
  • Avocados 

    In addition to food choices, there are some other lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health. They include:

  • Reducing the amount of stress in your life.
  • Exercising at least 30 minutes three days a week. Not only will this help reduce stress, but it also strengthens your heart muscle and keeps the blood flowing.
  • Reducing your sodium intake.
  • Replacing sugary drinks and sodas with water and drinks sweetened with the healthy, all-natural sweetener stevia.
  • Quit cigarettes and e-cigarettes.Making such lifestyle choices will not just help you live longer, it will help you enjoy your years with more energy.

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Surviving a Heart Attack

If you think you’re having a heart attack…

If your symptoms last more than 10 minutes, seek immediate medical help. Your best bet is to call 9-1-1. Most ambulances are equipped with emergency cardiac equipment, and the responders are trained in lifesaving procedures, so they can start treating you as soon as they arrive. (Arriving at the hospital via ambulance and showing symptoms of chest pain typically means that you’ll get treated more quickly than if a family member or friend drives you to the ER. Never drive yourself to the hospital if you think you are having a heart attack.)

After you’ve called for help, if you have aspirin available, chew a tablet to begin dissolving the blood clot as you wait for help to arrive. (It’s important to remember to tell first responders and medical staff that you took an aspirin before they start working on you.)

The most important thing you can do is to be aware of these symptoms and react quickly because your life or that of your loved one depends on it.

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