Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The good news? It is also one of the most preventable. Making heart-healthy choices, knowing your family health history and the risk factors for heart disease, having regular check-ups and working with your physician to manage your health are all integral aspects of saving lives from this often silent killer.
Heart Attack Symptoms
Symptoms of a heart attack or myocardial infarction can vary greatly from person to person, but in order to help you identify a possible heart attack, we have listed some of the most common symptoms below:
- Approximately 2 out of every 3 people who have heart attacks experience chest pain, shortness of breath or fatigue a few days or weeks before the attack.
- A person with angina (temporary chest pain) may begin to find that it takes less and less physical activity to trigger the pain. Any change in the pattern of angina should be taken very seriously and brought to the attention of your physician.
- During a heart attack, a person may feel pain in the middle of the chest which can spread to the back, neck, jaw or arms. The pain may also be felt only in the back, neck, jaw or arms rather than the chest.
- A person having a heart attack may have gas-like pain or pressure in the stomach area which is often mistaken for indigestion. The pain is similar to angina, but it is usually more severe, longer lasting and does not improve with rest or a nitroglycerin pill.
- It is important to note that approximately 1 out of every 3 people who have heart attacks do not feel any chest pain. Many of these are women, non-Caucasian, older than 75, have heart failure or diabetes or have had a stroke.
- Nausea & vomiting which are sometimes mistaken for food poisoning or the stomach flu
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Shortness of breath, especially in older people
- Feelings of restlessness, sweatiness, anxiety or a sense of impending doom
- Bluishness of the lips, hands or feet
- Heavy pounding of the heart or abnormal heart rhythms
- Loss of consciousness (This can be the first symptom of a heart attack!)
- Disorientation resembling a stroke may occur in older people.
- Also, older people, especially women, will often take longer to admit they are not.
Common Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Age- Heart disease can occur at any age. However, four out of five people who die from coronary heart disease are aged 65 or older. The risk of stroke doubles with each decade after the age of 55.
Gender-Men and women are equally at risk for heart disease, but women tend to get coronary artery disease an average of 10 years later than men.
Family History (Heredity)-Presence of heart disease in a parent or sibling, especially at a young age, increases your risk of developing heart disease.