In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. That’s roughly 805,000 people each year, and 3/4 of those are first-time attacks.
Heart attacks don’t discriminate, either. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of death for men and women regardless of race.
These statistics can seem frightening, but there are plenty of early warning signs a person can experience days prior to an attack. Early detection can significantly reduce the chances of severe heart damage or death, which is why it is vital to know the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the signs a heart attack may be looming and who is most at risk.
Early warning signs of a heart attack
You may have heard heart attacks referred to as the silent killer. There is truth to that, as approximately 1 in 5 heart attacks have mild symptoms, which makes people believe it’s normal discomfort.
Fortunately, there are numerous signs and symptoms that may indicate a heart attack is looming. These signs and symptoms can come and go for hours or days before chest pain becomes severe. When these symptoms are treated early, sudden death and cardiac damage may be averted.
The early warning signs of a heart attack can be specific or nonspecific to heart disease.
Specific heart attack symptoms: Specific symptoms include chest discomfort, chest pressure, chest ache, chest fullness and chest burning. Most heart attacks can consist of discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts longer than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. This discomfort feels like an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Non-specific heart attack symptoms: Nonspecific symptoms include fatigue — feeling light-headed, weak or faint — sweating, nausea or a feeling of indigestion. It can also include dizziness, shortness of breath — often experienced alongside chest discomfort — and pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, in the jaw, neck or back.
Heart disease and women
It’s a common misconception that heart disease is one that only affects men — women die from heart disease almost as much as men each year.
This fallacy may be part of the reason that prevention and treatment is remarkably less aggressive for women than it is for men. That’s something that Goshen Health aims to change.
A common heart attack symptom is chest pain, however, men have greater chances than women of experiencing this symptom with a heart attack. When having a heart attack, women more commonly experience dizziness, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, stomach pain and pressure or tightness in the chest.
Additionally, women have a higher risk of death from their first heart attack and are more susceptible to having long-term disabilities as a result. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn the various warning signs that attribute to a heart attack, in order to implement timely intervention.
Why are Americans considered high risk for having heart disease?
The three key risk factors for heart disease are high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking.
Approximately half of the American population have at least one of these three factors, which contributes to the high cases of heart disease in the U.S. These three factors are considered the major components that contribute to poor heart and vascular health, but there are many other factors that can contribute.
A person’s lifestyle, age, family history and certain health conditions can increase the risk of having heart disease and experiencing a heart attack. Other risk factors include depression, excessive alcohol use, high stress, obesity, physical inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet.
There are also risk factors that are specific to women, such as birth control pills, history of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and having a low-birth-weight baby.
Heart disease is a serious condition. Nevertheless, most cases can be prevented by understanding the warning signs and implementing a healthier lifestyle. A great place to start is by talking with your primary care provider.
If you don’t have a provider, most Goshen Physicians offices are welcoming new patients.