February 8, 2013

A man is mid-sentence when he clutches his chest and drops to his knees. He’s having a heart attack! An ambulance is called, and he’s whisked away.

We’re all familiar with this scene, played out over and over again in TV shows and movies. But in reality, most heart attacks look nothing like this. Many people don’t even know they’re having one. The majority of heart attack victims do not seek medical care for two hours or more after symptoms start — but treatments are far more effective when begun right away.

Since February is American Heart Month, we’d like to educate our readers on the warning signs of heart attacks so that you can be prepared.

Here are  the common signs of a heart attack, from the Mayo Clinic:

  • A feeling of pressure, fullness or squeezing pain in your chest that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Pain that extends from your chest to your shoulder, arm, back or even to your teeth and jaw
  • Chest pain episodes that increase in severity
  • Pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • An impending sense of doom
  • Fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting

In women, additional symptoms may include:

  • Heartburn or abdominal pain
  • Clammy skin
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unexplained fatigue

If you or a loved one have any of these symptoms call 911 immediately. If you are not at home, remember that many public locations now have AEDs (Automated External Defibrillator) which can be used to restart the heart and prevent further injury until emergency medical personnel arrive.

If recommended by a medical professional on a case by case basis, chewing  an aspirin tablet can also help reduce the damage to your heart. No matter where you are, never drive yourself to the hospital.

Have you or a loved one ever had a heart attack? What was your experience like? Share your story in the comments.