February is heart month
February is “heart health month” so it is a good time to make sure you are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Recognizing the signs can literally save someone’s life.
So let’s start with what happens during a heart attack. The heart needs oxygen to physically pump and move blood through its chambers and to the rest of the body. When the arteries that bring blood to the heart are lined with plaque (fat and cholesterol), it reduces the amount of blood and oxygen available for the heart muscle. The amount of plaque increases with poor diet and lack of exercise. As plaque builds up, it breaks away from the artery wall and forms a clot. This clot can block blood flow to the heart, starving it of oxygen and nutrients (ischemia). When the heart is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, it leads to tissue damage and/or tissue death, aka a “heart attack.”
There are many signs that are good indicators of a potential heart attack. The most common sign and symptom is the feeling of extreme chest pain, pressure, or “squeezing” that lasts more than a few minutes. But heart attack symptoms can actually present differently in women than they do in men. In fact, many women who’ve had heart attacks, never experienced chest pain at all.
• Intense chest pain and pressure, often accompanied by intermittent “squeezing” sensations
• Pain or discomfort in (any or all) the arms, left shoulder, jaw, neck, and back
• Irregular or rapid heart beat
• Shortness of breath, even with rest
• Cold sweats
Symptoms of Heart Attack in Women:
• Unusual and extreme fatigue lasting several days or coming on suddenly
• “Flu-like” symptoms
• Sleep disturbances
• Light headedness
• Shortness of breath
• “Gas-like” or indigestion-like pain
• Pain in the jaw, throat, upper back or shoulder
• Chest pain/pressure, sometimes radiating into the arm
These symptoms are defined by the American Heart Association. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. It just might save your life.