According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in every four deaths, or about 610,000 people every year, die of heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S., and heart attacks are unfortunately quite common among Americans too, with about 790,000 suffering from them each year.
A heart attack occurs when the blood vessel supplying blood to the heart, the coronary artery, becomes blocked either completely or partially. Without that blood supply, the heart isn’t getting the proper amount of nutrients or oxygen it needs. Some people may not experience any symptoms until a plaque deposit ruptures, which triggers a chain of events that results in a sudden heart attack. Most heart attack victims do experience some symptoms first – they can develop months before a heart attack occurs. It’s important not to ignore symptoms and wait until they become severe. Nearly half of those who die suddenly from a heart attack or other heart problems do so outside of a hospital without ever receiving treatment that might have saved their lives.
Recognizing early warning signs and treatment quickly to restore blood flow is key. If you’re unsure whether or not your symptoms indicate heart problems, cardiac monitoring services can help your doctor understand what’s going on. These four signs, in particular, you’ll want to pay close attention to as they can indicate an impending heart attack.
Chest Discomfort or Pain
Most heart attacks have symptoms that include discomfort in the left or center of the chest, which lasts several minutes or more, or disappears and then returns. It can feel like an uncomfortable squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, pain, squeezing, or fullness.
Shortness of Breath
Usually, shortness of breath starts before any chest pain or discomfort that may or may not develop. As your breathing and your heart pumping blood the way it should are very closely related, it can make you feel short of breath. In women especially, this is often an accompanying symptom to unusual fatigue.
Other Upper Body Discomfort
While most people associate a heart attack with pain that moves down the left arm, it’s possible to feel discomfort or pain in your neck, jaw, one or both arms, the upper abdomen, shoulders, and/or back. Women more often report pain in the lower portion of the chest and lower abdomen, as well as the upper back.
Weakness, Dizziness or Lightheadedness
You may feel weak, lightheaded, or dizzy just before a heart attack. It may seem as if you’ll pass out if you try and overexert yourself, or simply try and stand up. Sweating profusely or experiencing gastrointestinal problems along with that feeling is an even bigger red flag.
Preventing a Heart Attack
Of course, preventing a heart attack is far better than suffering from one. The best things you can do to lower your risk include:
Being physically active every day. Research has found that getting at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical exercise each week can lower cholesterol and high blood pressure as well as keep your weight at a healthy level, all of which reduces your risk of a heart attack. Start our weekly exercise plan today.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese, which is highly prevalent in the U.S., puts you at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance, all factors that raise your risk of heart disease. So start losing weight today.
Quit smoking. One of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and heart attack is smoking cigarettes, so if you smoke, quit now.
Follow a nutritious diet. Avoiding red meat, sugar- and sugar-free beverages, fast food, packaged foods, and the like while following a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do to fight heart disease. Choose “whole” foods over processed as often as possible, which means foods that come directly from the earth like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, fish and healthy oils like olive oil. Learn how to eat a healthy diet.