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The Risks and Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

We all know that heart attacks are serious. We are often reminded about them from concerned family members when we’re stressed or from the myriad of public service announcements on TV, the radio and on billboards. While we’ve been trained to worry about a heart attack, we still lag in the risks and warning signs that we should be aware of to avoid one in the first place or get treatment at the earliest possible time.

The Risks of Heart Attack

Whether it is due to age, lifestyle, congenital defect or family history, we all have varying risks of a heart attack. And while some of the following risks may seem pretty obvious, others may not be. So, let’s jump straight in:

  1. Our heart is a muscle and all muscles degrade over time. As such, the older we are the greater the likelihood of having a heart problem. Men over 45 and women over 55 are more susceptible to a heart attack
  2. It’s not that one gender is significantly more susceptible to a heart attack than the other, but many assume that a woman’s risk is low. The result is that many women either do not get the cardiac screening they need or may not take the time to assess their risk. The bottom line? Everyone should understand more about heart attacks
  3. Lifestyle choices – excess weight along with poor diet can increase plaque build-up in the arteries, restricting blood flow and causing a heart attack. High cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure may all be caused by excess weight
  4. Stress – Interesting recent research has posited that it is not stress itself that causes heart issues but how we manage it…Stress is unavoidable in modern society, so managing it becomes paramount. Hone some effective methods to melt stress and take some extra time for exercise, meditation, sleep and other stress relievers
  5. Family History – close family members that had a heart attack before 55 for males or before 65 for females
  6. Drug, alcohol and tobacco use

The Warning Signs

It’s impossible to predict exactly when a heart attack is going to happen, but when it does, we need to take swift action. The following warning signs are clear indications that something is amiss and that a heart attack may be occurring or is imminent

  1. Tightness, discomfort or pain in the chest that may also radiate to the neck, back and even jaw. Many people mistakenly assume this is heartburn, but don’t take any chances. If something seems wrong, it probably is, and you need immediate medical attention
  2. Pain or discomfort in the left shoulder. If there’s no obvious reason for the pain (such as an injury, overuse, laparoscopic surgery or otherwise), it could well be a heart attack
  3. Shortness of breath. Spontaneous shortness of breath that doesn’t come from physical exertion and doesn’t resolve right away can be a sign of a heart attack
  4. Fatigue and dizziness can also be signs of a heart attack
  5. Some symptoms such as pain or pressure in the chest (angina) may occur hours or even days before a heart attack. Any chest pain should be evaluated immediately

Of course, not all symptoms are the same, so if you are experiencing anything unusual please take appropriate emergency action.

What to do? The bottom line is to call 911 immediately or of someone is with you, get to the emergency room as fast as possible. If you have nitroglycerin from your doctor, this may be the time to take it. You may also take aspirin if your doctor has told you to do so.