You see it all the time in movies and television. The main character has a heart attack, grips their chest and falls to the ground.
It’s a dramatic scene that builds suspense.
But it’s not necessarily true in real life.
Yes, chest pain is one of the classic signs of a heart attack, but it’s not the only one. In fact, there are a lot of lesser-known heart attack symptoms that are often ignored or overlooked. In addition, women even experience different symptoms from men.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one person dies every 37 seconds from cardiovascular disease—which equals more than a half-million Americans a year.
With statistics like that, you can’t afford to ignore any signs of a heart attack—and we’re talking about much more than a “grip your chest” type of symptom.
But what if you don’t know what these lesser-known signs are? How can you be on the lookout?
Don’t worry. We’ve compiled all the vital information you need to know. We’ll take a look at some of these lesser-known symptoms of a heart attack, how to evaluate your risk of a heart attack, and resources we have to help you.
What Does a Heart Attack Feel Like?
Some heart attacks are sudden, painful, and intense. They give the “classic” signs of chest pain—often described as feeling like there’s an elephant sitting on the chest.
But what does a heart attack feel like? You’ll find the answer often varies.
While most heart attacks do cause chest discomfort, did you realize that this pain may come and go?
During a heart attack, you may also feel pain or discomfort in your:
- One or both arms (particularly the left arm)
Other Little-Known Heart Attack Symptoms
Did you ever think that nausea could be a sign of a heart attack? Dizziness and lightheadedness are also indicators. You may also find yourself breaking out in a cold sweat.
Usually, these symptoms accompany some of the others listed above. Because there are several different causes of nausea and dizziness, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you have these symptoms.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
While men are typically more likely to have chest pains, a heart attack from a woman’s perspective may look completely different. In fact, the American Heart Association [www.heart.org] says that some women have experienced symptoms that remind them more of the flu than a heart attack.
Dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, vomiting, jaw or neck pains are symptoms they should be on the watch for.
What Happens in Your Body During a Heart Attack?
Okay, so you hear about heart attacks all the time, but what actually happens during one?
Essentially, blood flows into the heart to provide oxygen so that the heart muscle can effectively do its job. During a heart attack, this blood flow is either cut off completely or severely reduced. This can be caused by arteries that are narrowed due to excess cholesterol.
In some cases, a cardiac catheterization is needed to determine the cause of a heart attack and the extent to which the arteries are blocked.
You can clearly see what happens during a heart attack through this neat video, courtesy of the American Heart Association.
What is Your Risk of a Heart Attack?
Your risk is greater if:
- You smoke
- You have high cholesterol
- Your age (the older you are more likely)
- You have someone in your family with a heart attack
- You are African-American
If you fall into any of these high-risk categories, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors who can help ensure you have the healthiest life possible.
You can also use this quiz to assess your heart attack risk.
We Offer the Most Advanced Cardiac Care in the Region
At the foundation of our heart center is an experienced, compassionate team working with state-of-the-art technology. We work with expert cardiologists from CMC Cardiology to ensure that you’re receiving only the best care.
We also work with Duke Health professionals to utilize the latest evidence-based treatments. This enhances the quality of heart care available throughout our community.
This means that we have access to the leading experts in the country, working together to provide the best care practices.
Whether you’re seeking sophisticated services in our cardiac catheterization lab or you need early heart attack care, we have the guidance and treatment you need.
Not sure about the state of your heart health? Do you have a high risk of a heart attack? Contact us today to schedule an appointment.