According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 715,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. For many people, early warning signs appear in the months, weeks, or days before a full-blown heart attack. Recognizing these warning signs and seeking medical help could save your life. If you experience any of the symptoms below, notify your doctor.
Nausea, Indigestion, or Fullness
Nausea, indigestion, vomiting, or a feeling of fullness that lasts for more than a few days may not be related to your stomach. When oxygen-rich blood is not moving through your circulatory system, the body may respond by sending pain signals to the abdomen.
Pain in the Jaw or Arms
When your heart is struggling, it sends out pain signals that can radiate up to your jaw and down your arms. The pain comes and goes. It is not persistent like the pain from a pulled muscle or dental issue. The pain may be accompanied by numbness, tightness, or tingling sensations.
Feeling exhausted throughout the day with no known cause could be a sign of heart trouble.
Constant worrying or anxiety that is not related to a specific stressor in your life should be addressed. You may have trouble falling asleep at night, or you may wake up in the middle of the night plagued by anxiety or feelings of doom and distress.
Shortness of Breath
Many people attribute breathing issues to a lung problem, when in reality they are experiencing a lack of oxygen in the blood. You may have trouble taking a deep breath, become easily winded, or have periods of feeling dizzy and light-headed.
Upper Back Pain
Pay attention to pain across the upper back that radiates out toward the shoulders. The pain may come and go and is not related to a known injury such as a pulled muscle.
Chest Pain or Pressure
Long before a full-fledged heart attack occurs, you may experience a tightening or pressure in the chest. It may feel like somebody is squeezing your heart. The feeling may come and go, and often lasts for a few minutes.
Paying close attention to your body may prevent a heart attack. If you experience any of these symptoms, notify your doctor. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital. Minutes matter!
About the Author:
Brett Burgess, M.D., FACC, is a cardiologist at Cardiovascular Consultants. He can be reached at 912-355-0070.