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Recognize a Heart Attack Long Before it Happens

Heart attacks have been one of the leading causes of death in the US for many years, and very often, symptoms which could have been spotted well-in-advance go unnoticed. You may perhaps be familiar with the classic signs: a heavy sweat, clutching of the left arm, pain in the chest, and so on. But sometimes signs of a heart attack are not so obvious, particularly amongst women, who often don't seem to realize what's happening to them, or appreciate the seriousness of the situation, until it is too late.  

Whatever the symptoms may be, do not wait until it's too late. Be aware of what changes are taking place in your body and take necessary precautions - being alert will help save a life, whether it be your own, or a friend's. 

heart attack
Source: Flickr.com, nokhoog_buchachon

What is happening to the body in the process of a heart attack 


During a heart attack, the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot, which happens due to the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries. Consequently, this build-up causes a severe loss of blood supply to your heart, which then causes a heart attack.  


There are two main types:

Sudden: A person may or may not have had any symptoms in the past. All of a sudden, plaque ruptures, which triggers a chain of events and a sudden heart attack.

Gradual: This results from a gradual progression of coronary disease. In these patients, an artery narrows over time. Once it has narrowed down to more than 70 percent, a number of warning symptoms will start to show, possibly even months ahead.  


Therefore knowing the warning signs of a heart attack today, can help you or someone you know and love survive tomorrow. The sooner you recognize the symptoms and get treatment, the better. 

The symptoms can occur for months or even longer sometimes, and the spectrum of symptoms is very wide.  


Spot the signs well in advance 


1. Difficulty breathing, especially a shortness of breath 

When blood flow to the heart decreases, your lungs will feel the effect as well, as not enough blood gets pumped to your lungs, thus restricting your airflow and causing a shortness of breath. This can become an issue if you can't catch your breath even when sitting still and thus warrants an immediate check-up. 


2. Constant tiredness and drowsiness 

Restricted blood flow to the heart may give you an unshakable feeling of fatigue. This usually results from a sizable buildup of plaque in your arteries that carry blood both to and from your heart. This is concerning if you find it especially difficult to get up from your chair to go into the kitchen. Something this simple may feel as challenging as having to run a marathon.  


3. Dizziness and lightheadedness 

Poor blood circulation will limit your blood flow to the brain. Whilst dizziness and lightheadedness can be mistaken for many things, it is an especially common sign of a heart attack amongst women.  

Source: wakehealth.edu

4. Breaking out into a cold-sweat and feeling weak

Suddenly breaking out into a cold sweat is another sign that should be taken seriously, particularly when paired with a feeling of weakness. This occurs because your arteries have continued to narrow, restricting the blood flow throughout the entire body. 


5. Chest pressure and pressure in other parts of the body 

Chest pressure is perhaps one of the most obvious symptoms of a heart attack and is often a clear indication that a heart attack is about to happen. However, most people tend to ignore the tight feeling or chest pain, believing that it is nothing serious. Women should pay particular attention to this feeling of pressure or mild discomfort if it occurs anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side where your heart is.

Feeling a mild to severe pain or sense of pressure in other parts of your body, such as your stomach, shoulder, arm, throat or jaw are symptoms which should not be ignored.


6. Cold and flu symptoms

People have also recorded the development of cold and flu symptoms prior to a heart attack. Symptoms of nausea and vomiting or stomach pain should also be looked upon with a watchful eye, particularly amongst women, who often mistaken these symptoms for indigestion or stomach flu. 


What to do in the event of a heart attack

If you suspect that you are having a heart attack, here's a guide on what to do and what not to do.



  • Call EMERGENCY SERVICES at once.
  • As you wait for the EMTs to arrive, sit or lie down.
  • If you have an aspirin at hand, chew on it to help thin your blood. If no aspirin is at hand, don't move around in search of one.


  • So long as you get help at once, heart attacks are very survivable, so don't panic.
  • Get immediate care from trained emergency responders. Don't call a friend or a relative.
  • Don't deny your symptoms. Chances are that they are not from something you ate, they won't just go away.
  • Don't drive yourself or have someone drive you to the nearest hospital.
  • Don't move around. You cannot walk off a heart attack.

Call emergency services immediately. Don't book an appointment with your cardiologist or doctor.

The sooner you call emergency services, the better your chances of survival. Every minute of delay makes death or serious heart damage much more likely.


Prevention is always best


Simple lifestyle changes can help diminish your chances of a heart attack in the future. Heart attacks can be preventable as illustrated in these six habits.

In a study conducted in the Netherlands on almost 18,000 men and women without heart disease, individuals were tracked for up for up to 14 years. More than 600 of the group had heart attacks in this period, and some even died. The study conculded that if people followed these four simple steps, they would be able to lower their risk of heart attacks by 67%.

Source: wakehealth.edu
  • 30-40 minutes a day of physical exercise
  • A healthy Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains
  • Not smoking
  • Enjoying more than one alcoholic beverage a month (so long as it is not an issue)
  • Sleeping seven or more hours each night
  • Maintaining weight and waist control.

DISCLAIMER: This article serves for informational purposes only. It is always important to seek help and thorough information from a professional doctor if you are concerned about your health. 

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