More than 1 million Americans suffer a heart attack every year. While the vast majority of people will have a heart attack with traditional symptoms like chest discomfort or pressure, cold sweat, extreme weakness, there are more subtle telltale signs you’re having or are about to have a heart attack that you can easily miss. Noticing heart attack signs early and getting prompt treatment can save your life. If you experience any of the following symptoms, see a doctor.
Some of the non-classic symptoms include unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath and/or discomfort in the throat, neck, jaw or any one extremity. Some people will experience what feels like heartburn, and they will simply take medication to relieve the heartburn instead of recognizing that the pain could be coming from their heart.
Curtis Rimmerman, MD, a Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist says that people think a heart attack should be sharp pain on the left side of the chest, but what is experienced most often is discomfort felt in the center of the chest, along with a squeezing or tightness. Given the way television and movies have portrayed heart attacks, it’s not surprising that these less common symptoms usually pass without concern.
Sore Back, Chest or Arms
Shortness of Breath
Heartburn or Belching
Throat, Neck, or Jaw Discomfort
Feeling That Something’s Wrong
If you feel sustained discomfort for a period of a few minutes, especially if the symptoms are new and without a clear explanation, don’t ignore these concerns. Often people will sense that something is wrong, but they do not want to believe it’s a heart attack. They ignore symptoms or attribute them to something else. Recently it was documented that a patient thought he was experiencing food poisoning, only to learn a couple of days later that he actually had a heart attack.
If you have new onset heartburn-like symptoms or any of the above symptoms, you should seek medical attention. Don’t let uncertainly lead to regret later for you or your family.
What To Do If Your Having a Heart Attack
If You Think You are Having A Heart Attack
- Chew up and swallow an aspirin. It could help keep the clot in your artery from getting worse. A baby aspirin is enough, but any size works.
- Lie down and try your best to relax. I know this is asking a lot, but you want to put as little physical and mental stress on your heart as you can.
- If you’re in a public place, many have AEDs (automated external defibrillators.) Try to find an AED and then open it and read the instructions. You’ll be surprised how simple it is to operate for nonmedical and medical people alike. You don’t even have to know how to read. Turn it on, and you’ll receive audible instructions.
If You Can’t Get Expert Help:
- Get as much oxygen as you can. Have someone open window (if it’s not super to cold).
- Try to stay warm. Use a blanket if necessary because the body doesn’t function as well and has to use more energy if you’re cold.
- Use pain medicine.
After a Heart Attack:
- Bed rest is very important to put less stress on the heart. This should go on for weeks, so the heart can heal, but that’s impractical, so rest completely for 3 days if possible, or at least for 24 hours after the pain subsides. After that, start sitting up for meals and going to the bathroom.
- No strenuous exercise for at least 6 weeks.
- Continue an aspirin a day indefinitely unless you have a blood disorder, ulcers or are on Coumadin (warfarin).
- See a doctor when you can