Signs of Heart Attack
If You Know The Signs of Heart Attack, You Can Save Lives
My sister saved my father’s life when he had a heart attack!
They were at a day-long symposium, when during the lunch break, dad suddenly complained of discomfort and had a sudden urge to use the toilet. When he returned a few minutes later, he was sweating profusely.
He didn’t complain of chest pain, but my sister knew the signs of heart attack, and was aware that diabetics can have an acute coronary syndrome without any pain.
What she did next saved his life. Without wasting a minute, she rushed him to hospital. Only on the short drive there did she call to let others in the family know.
The result was that, within 15 minutes of the onset of symptoms, my father was safely inside the emergency room of a specialty hospital, being examined by a cardiologist who diagnosed a heart attack.
Treatment was initiated instantly and a massive myocardial infarction which could have killed him only left him with some heart failure and a couple of weeks in hospital.
He lived for ten more years.
Why You Should Know Signs of Heart Attack
Every year, in the United States alone, 1.2 million people will have a heart attack. Many of them die, often within the first hour, before they even reach hospital. If you know signs of heart attack and can recognize an episode quickly, you can help prevent death.
Not only does prompt treatment save lives, it also reduces the severity of heart muscle damage and speeds up recovery. Once a heart attack victim reaches hospital, under the care of a medical specialist, tests can be quickly performed to identify the problem and emergency treatment initiated.
Tragically, too many deaths from heart attack occur before suitable medical attention can be obtained. Ignorance of the signs of heart attack and a tendency to delay seeking treatment for what is mistaken to be ‘gas’ or ‘indigestion’ accounts for the high mortality rate following acute coronary syndrome.
What Are The Signs of Heart Attack?
With many diverse signs of heart attack, there are many different ways in which it can manifest.
By far the most common of all signs of heart attack is chest pain. The chest pain in heart attack often takes the form of severe pressure or a crushing sensation located in the middle of the chest or towards the left. The pain is usually constant, relentless and is not relieved by anything.
Rarely, the only signs of heart attack my be other features than chest pain. These hard-to-detect events are called ‘silent heart attacks’ and are more common in older people, women and diabetics. Unstable angina is a form of anginal chest pain that can evolve into a heart attack.
Chest pain in a heart attack can radiate to the jaw, neck, left arm and upper part of the stomach. It may sometimes wax and wane in severity, but is usually constant and unbearable in severity. The pain is caused by a sudden, near-complete loss of blood flow to heart muscle, which soon begins to undergo damage and eventually death – unless coronary artery blood flow is restored again promptly.
In some cases, the only signs of heart attack are difficulty in breathing or a sudden shortness of breath. This may occur along with chest pain, or sometimes even without any pain.
The shortness of breath is the consequence of acute heart failure caused by the blockage of blood flow to heart muscle, making it weak and unable to pump out blood. The damming up of blood results in too much fluid stagnating in the lungs, making it hard to breathe.
Other signs of heart attack may include nausea, vomiting, profuse sweating, an urge to void the bowels, light headedness or dizziness.
Not every victim has all the signs of heart attack, and none of them are unique to heart attacks. If the combination of symptoms suggests the possibility of heart attack, it is safer to rush the patient to hospital for evaluation. Doing this instantly, without wasting any time, may mean the difference between life and death.
Late Signs of Heart Attack
Under some unusual circumstances, a heart attack might go totally undetected until much later. These so-called “silent heart attacks” manifest later on through indirect consequences of heart muscle damage.
Heart failure, which results from the obstruction of blood flow in the coronary arteries during a heart attack, leads to failure of the heart’s pumping action. This leads to reduced blood flow to other organs, resulting in symptoms of heart failure such as fatigue, extreme tiredness, cool extremities, reduced urine output and dizziness.
Heart rhythm disturbances (or arrhythmias) are another consequence of heart attacks. An irregular pulse may be one of the signs of heart attack that indicate silent damage that has taken place undetected. Sometimes the rhythm disturbance is dramatic, especially when a heart attack leads to ventricular fibrillation and causes a sudden loss of heart function, resulting in sudden death unless the victim is resuscitated immediately.
Prompt Treatment Depends On Knowing Signs of Heart Attack
Only when you know the signs of heart attack will it be possible to assist a victim promptly. Rushing a person who has had a heart attack to a hospital and starting emergency treatment within an hour of the onset of an acute coronary syndrome can literally save lives.
The signs of heart attack like crushing chest pain, nausea, vomiting, profuse sweating, heart rhythm disturbances and breathing difficulty should warn of a potentially life-threatening emergency. Rushing a person to hospital should take the highest priority, if lives are to be saved.
In a separate report, we will discuss the emergency measures that will be taken once you reach hospital. Treatment of heart attack spans a range of activities from thrombolysis (clot busting), to angioplasty and coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery.
But all of this can only happen if signs of heart attack are recognized – and the patient brought to medical attention without any delay.
“Just A Little Heart Attack” – a short film directed by and starring Elizabeth Banks