If you ask about the symptoms of a heart attack, most people think of chest pain. Over the last couple of decades, however, scientists have learned that heart attack symptoms aren’t so clear-cut.
Symptoms may show up in several different ways and depend on a number of factors, such as whether you’re a man or a woman, what type of heart disease you have, or how old you are.
It’s important to dig a little deeper to understand the variety of symptoms that may indicate a heart attack. Uncovering more information can help you learn when to help yourself or your loved ones.
Early symptoms of a heart attack
The sooner you get help for a heart attack, the better your chances for a complete recovery. Unfortunately, many people hesitate to get help, even if they suspect there’s something wrong.
Doctors, however, overwhelmingly encourage people to get help if they suspect they’re experiencing early heart attack symptoms. Even if you’re wrong, going through some testing is better than suffering long-term heart damage or other health issues because you waited too long.
Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person, and even from one heart attack to another. The important thing is to trust yourself. You know your body better than anyone. If something feels wrong, get emergency care right away.
Early heart attack symptoms occur in 50 percent of all people who have heart attacks. If you’re aware of the early symptoms, you may be able get treatment quickly enough to prevent heart damage. Eighty-five percent of heart damage happens in the first two hours following a heart attack.
Early symptoms of heart attack can include the following:
- mild pain or discomfort in your chest that may come and go, which is also called “stuttering” chest pain
- pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw
- nausea or vomiting
- lightheadedness or fainting
- feeling of “impending doom”
- severe anxiety or confusion
It’s important to remember, however, that a heart attack is different for men and women. Your symptoms may not fit this cookie-cutter description. Trust your instincts if you think something is wrong.
Lowering your risk
Lowering your risk factors for coronary heart disease can help you prevent a heart attack. Even if you already have coronary heart disease, you still can take steps to lower your risk for a heart attack. These steps involve making heart-healthy lifestyle changes and getting ongoing medical care for related conditions that make a heart attack more likely. Talk to your doctor about whether you may benefit from aspirin primary prevention, or using aspirin to help prevent your first heart attack.
A heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent a heart attack, and includes heart-healthy eating, being physically active, quitting smoking, managing stress, and managing your weight.
The writer of this story is not a medical professional, and the information that is in this story has been collected from reliable sources — every precaution has been taken to ensure its accuracy. The information provided is for general information purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional health care.
Translated by Mona Song and Audrey Wang.