Early Signs Of A Heart Attack

Do not ignore this!

A typical case

A middle-aged man assisted by his wife is rushed into the doctor’s office rubbing his chest. He looks distressed and pale. He relates that he feels as if there is a weight pressing on his chest. On examination he is sweating, his skin is clammy, and he has shortness of breath. Immediately he is given oxygen while his vital signs are checked. He is somewhat more comfortable and an EKG done later showed that he had a heart attack.

An unusual case

For several months, a female manager explains to her GP that she has been having frequent indigestion and heartburn. This she attributes to an increased work load on the job which has affected her ability to have lunch on-time.  At first, the antacids seemed to be helping but lately nothing relieved the burning in the chest. The doctor asked her about a history of food intolerance and previous stomach problems. A physical examination did not reveal any tenderness in the abdominal area. All vital checks were normal except for a moderately elevated blood pressure reading. As part of a routine check-up an EKG revealed signs of an old myocardial infarction (heart attack).

What is a Heart attack?

A heart attack is a medical emergency. A heart attack also called a myocardial infarction (MI) occurs when the blood flow to the heart is reduced or blocked. This results in the muscles of the heart being deprived of oxygen and nutrients. The flow of blood can be interrupted by a blockage of a main artery caused from a build-up of plaques formed from cholesterol, fat, and other substances. The heart muscles are damaged and begin to die when starved of oxygen and nutrients. Scarred tissue on the heart represents areas of old myocardial infarction. Patients can survive a minor heart attack, but a massive heart attack is life threatening if appropriate emergency medical care is not administered quickly.

Signs of a Heart Attack

  • Chest pain is often felt on the left side of the chest or behind the breast bone (retrosternal). Pain in the left shoulder, left arm and jaw are other possible symptoms
  • Difficulty breathing also called shortness of breath
  • Skin is cold and clammy to the touch
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fatigue or weakness

Heart attack versus a Cardiac arrest

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating. Without an emergency intervention (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, defibrillation (electro-stimulation) or open chest massage of the heart) the individual dies. In the case of a heart attack ,oxygen and nutrient starved heart muscles are damaged and can result in scarring.

Tips on what to do:

1. If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack

    1. Call emergency medical service or any emergency service
    2. Take medication prescribed by your doctor

a. Aspirin

b. Nitroglycerine

c. Other medication for heart problems

3.   Try to get to the emergency room

2. When someone appears to be having a heart attack

    1. Call emergency medical service or any emergency service
    2. Assist the individual to sit or lie down
    3. Loosen clothing such as a necktie
    4. Try to administer chest compression over the heart until emergency medical care arrives
    5. If you have been trained in CPR, then do the life-saving procedures

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack as the life you save could be your own or that of a loved one.

Hello_Doc MD, Readers Bureau, Contributor

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