Signs of a heart attack range from the most classic sign of feeling liken an elephant is sitting on your chest with sweating and arm and jaw pain to less classical signs of a heart attack such as back pain, jaw pain, neck pain, nausea, shortness of breath, palpitations, indigestion, dizziness, and passing out.
The key take away point from this article is that if there is any concern for a heart attack whatsoever, every second counts when it comes to obtaining emergent evaluation. In this article we will discuss signs of a heart attack in more depth from the typical to the atypical in an aim to educate readers about signs of a heart attack and hopefully help save some heart muscle and some lives!
Signs Of A Heart Attack May Differ In Women
It’s critical to recognize that signs of a heart attack may differ in women. In addition to the typical symptom of chest pain a heart attack; women experience other atypical symptoms more frequently than men. This has led to many disparities in care over the years and there is now a strong movement to educate both healthcare providers and patients to be vigilant to this. Whereas men may more frequently experience chest pain as a sign of a heart attack, women may experience back pain, jaw pain, neck pain, nausea, shortness of breath, palpitations, indigestion, dizziness, and passing out.
Signs of a Heart Attack – Chest Pain That May Radiate
Chest pain is the most common and classic sign of a heart attack. It is often poorly localized, but is classically in the area behind the breastbone and associated with a pressure like sensation. The pain may radiate to the neck and jaw and the arms, the left arm most classically with a squeezing like sensation. These symptoms are known as angina. In stable angina these symptoms will often occur with exertion or emotional distress and go away with rest. If the symptoms last more than a few minutes then the diagnosis is certainly not considered stable angina and help should be sought.
Signs of a Heart Attack – Sweating
The medical term for sweating here is diaphoresis, a well-known sign of a heart attack. This occurs due to activation of a defense mechanism known as the sympathetic nervous system, a kind of fight or flight response. The sweating may occur with or without chest pain, and may occur with other non-chest pain symptoms in a heart attack such as arm pain, jaw pain, shortness of breath and such.
Signs of a Heart Attack – Shortness of Breath
In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, or on its own, shortness of breath is well recognized when it comes to signs of a heart attack. This occurs as a manifestation of heart failure caused by heart muscle dysfunction from the heart attack.
Signs of a Heart Attack – Passing out
Passing out may be a sign of a heart attack, and as with other signs or symptoms can occur in isolation or with the other signs mentioned. It may be due to a number of reasons that include a dangerous heart rhythm and low blood pressure. If passing out occurs in a patient with any of the above symptoms, or in a patient with a known history of heart disease, prompt attention is needed.
Signs of a Heart Attack – New Palpitations
Although palpitations on their own are not likely associated with a heart attack, those that newly occur in conjunction with chest pain, sweating and shortness of breath combined are certainly concerning. They may represent simply a fast heartbeat in response to the heart attack, or an arrhythmia directly caused by the heart attack such as ventricular tachycardia.
Signs of a Heart Attack – Shock
The shock referred to here is the process by where the body is unable to compensate for the affects of the heart attack such as heart failure. This generally means the output of the heart is insufficient in terms of what the body needs. Associated symptoms may be light headed and dizziness, a cool and clammy appearance, fast heart rate and low blood pressure. Shock in general would be associated with a pretty large heart attack.
What To Do If Experiencing Signs of a Heart Attack?
The term time is muscle is very relevant here. In the setting of a heart attack, with each minute that passes there is a chance of increasing and often irreversible heart damage. With quick action heart muscle and lives can be saved. If a heart attack is suspected then an ambulance must be called without delay. The patient needs to be taken to a hospital capable of dealing with a heart attack immediately and action taken. On immediate encounter with a healthcare provider, if a heart attack is suspected then medicine such as aspirin will be given without delay. If a STEMI heart attack is suspected then patients will often need to be taken for heart catheterization immediately, ideally within 60-120 minute of initial symptom onset.
Signs Of A Heart Attack – A Summary
Although the classic presentation of a heart attack is chest pain and pressure, radiating to the neck and jaw and left arm with shortness of breath, its important to recognize many patients will have alternative signs and symptoms, especially women. These include back pain, jaw pain, neck pain, nausea, and shortness of breath, palpitations, indigestion, dizziness, and passing out as signs of a heart attack. The most important move if suspecting signs of a heart attack is to call an ambulance without delay as this may well save the life of the person experiencing the heart attack.