Health & Medicine

Pay attention to early sign of heart attack

Dr. Aslam, BaptistHealth
Dr. Aslam, BaptistHealth Herald-Leader

Did you know heart attacks have beginnings? These beginnings occur in more than 50 percent of patients. If recognized in time, these beginnings can be treated before the heart is damaged.

Some heart attacks are sudden and so intense that no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Symptoms may come and go before finally becoming constant and severe.

Recognizing the early symptoms of an impending heart attack is important because 85 percent of heart damage occurs within the first two hours of a heart attack. Acting upon these early symptoms immediately can prevent serious damage to the heart:

Chest discomfort: This may feel like an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest or on left side lasting more than a few minutes, or discomfort that comes and goes.

Discomfort in other upper body areas: Symptoms of pain or discomfort can occur in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort: Most of us experience shortness of breath when we are exercising or exerting ourselves, but difficulty breathing when performing normal activities is an early sign that should be investigated.

A feeling of impending doom: Some patients describe a feeling of anxiety and fear prior to the occurrence of a heart attack. Although not usually thought of as an early symptom, and certainly attributable to other matters, this "feeling" can still be an early indicator, especially when combined with any of the other symptoms listed above.

Other symptoms may include sudden profuse and often cold sweating, nausea, light-headedness and fatigue.

The most common heart attack symptom for both men and women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are often more likely to experience some of the other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

If you experience some of the above-mentioned symptoms that you have not experienced before, it is important to consult with a physician. If you or someone you are with has one or more of these symptoms, do not wait more than five minutes to call 911. Emergency medical staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. Fast action can save lives, perhaps your own.