7 Silent Signs of a HEART ATTACK
MORE THAN 8000 LIVES WERE lost to heart attack in Australia in 2016, or on average 22 people every day. Traditional symptoms – chest pain or pressure, cold sweat, extreme weakness – are well known. However, more subtle signs are easy to miss. If you experience any of the following symptoms, see a doctor. Noticing heart attack signs early and getting prompt treatment can save your life.
Cardiologist Dr Stacey E. Rosen says this is one of the most common symptoms she sees (especially in female patients). “In my 25 years of practice, people on the verge of a heart attack report feeling tired and not able to do their usual activities,” she says. When a heart attack is taking place, blood flow to the heart is reduced, putting extra stress on the muscle, which could make you feel exhausted. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to do an electrocardiogram (ECG), which checks heart activity, says cardiologist Dr Annapoorna Kini. “When people present with lethargy, doctors won’t immediately order an ECG, but you should request one.”
2 SORENESS IN THE BACK, ARMS OR CHEST
Pain in these areas is often a silent heart-attack sign. When a blocked artery prevents oxygenated blood from feeding heart-muscle cells, they start to run out of oxygen. During a heart attack these cells start to shoot pain signals through the nervous system. Because the pain is often not accompanied by the typical chest heaviness associated with heart attack, people tend to ignore it.
3 SHORTNESS OF BREATH
If climbing a flight of stairs is usually no problem, but suddenly you find yourself gasping for air at the top, it could signal a heart attack. “Patients, especially women, tell me they noticed feeling fatigued or breathless from walking up steps when they normally wouldn’t,” says Dr Rosen.
If you feel short of breath right after waking, that’s also a sign that something could be wrong. The heart plays a key role in transporting oxygen to the rest of your body and removing carbon dioxide from tissues, so blocked blood flow to the heart could affect your breathing.
4 HEARTBURN OR BELCHING
If you have occasional heartburn after a pizza, it’s probably nothing to worry about, but if it’s out of the ordinary, call your doctor. Angina, a heartburn-like chest pain, is caused by lack of blood flow to the heart, which is what happens during a heart attack, says gastroenterologist Dr Ryan Madonick.
5 STOMACH UPSET
Heart attack symptoms can sometimes mimic stomach problems such as nausea, vomiting or gastrointestinal upset – especially in women, says Dr Rosen.
6 THROAT, NECK OR JAW DISCOMFORT
Unexplained soreness of the neck or jaw, or tightness in the throat you’ve never felt before, can indicate a heart attack, says Dr Kini. It’s especially important for people with diabetes to pay attention to subtle changes.
7 A FEELING SOMETHING’S
WRONG “Heart attack patients have told me they had a feeling something wasn’t right,” says Dr Rosen. So listen to that voice in your head.