How to Detect a Heart Attack

Written By: Care New England on February 12, 2021

A heart attack, also referred to myocardial infarction, occurs when the heart's blood supply is cut off and the heart cannot get the oxygen it requires to function. In the US, heart attacks are common with someone getting a heart attack every 40 seconds. The symptoms of heart attack and their severity vary from one person to another.

However, many people experience warning signs and symptoms beforehand. With February being the heart health month, we wanted to share five ways to help you identify and detect a heart attack.

1. Chest Pain and Discomfort

In many instances, the pain from a heart attack is intense, making it easy to recognize and seek help. Debilitating chest pain is the most prominent symptom of a heart attack. You may experience mild to severe discomfort and pain in the center or left side of the chest.

Discomfort may feel like pressure, squeezing, burning sensation, or fullness in your chest lasting a few minutes. While such pain and discomfort may be related to other less severe conditions such as heartburn, it is essential to be examined to rule out a heart attack.

2. Shortness of Breath

Feeling like you just finished a marathon, yet you only climbed the stairs, can be a sign that your heart is not receiving enough oxygen. Often accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath is also a common sign. There is a close relationship between your breathing and your heart's ability to pump blood, and shortness of breath can be a sign your heart is not working effectively.

You may also experience dizziness and fatigue, and have trouble with previously easy tasks such as walking your dog and washing the dishes. While shortness of breath occurs in both men and women, it is more common in women.  

3. Heart Palpitations

A change in your heart's rhythm or feeling like it is skipping a beat can be an indication of a heart attack. A steady and consistent heartbeat allows blood to move throughout the body. A change in this rhythm means that the heart cannot work correctly, resulting in an attack. When you experience dizziness, chest pain and fainting in addition to heart palpitations, you should seek medical intervention.

4. Cold Sweat

Waking up to a cold sweat and nausea may be a symptom of flu. Nevertheless, it can also be a sign of an impending attack. Sweating emanates from the added effort of your heart pumping blood through blocked arteries.

Research shows that sweating is among the symptoms that make heart attack sufferers seek help. If you experience a cold sweat for no apparent reason, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, reach out for immediate help.

5. Discomfort in Other Parts of the Body

It is easy to assume that a heart attack will only affect, well, your heart. However, you may experience the effects in other parts of your body. You can feel pain and discomfort in your neck, jaw, back, upper abdomen, and arms. Also, your stomach is not spared from the effects of a heart attack. You may get a stomach upset, indigestion, and nausea. Women report pain in the lower abdomen and upper chest.  

While heart attacks vary from one person to the other, in most cases, you get warning signs hours, days, or weeks before an attack. You may experience chest discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweat, and heart palpitations.

Beware of these signs and symptoms, and do not ignore them. Visit Kent Hospital in Rhode Island for a wide range of cardiology services to keep your heart healthy.