Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women worldwide. Contrary to what you might see in the movies, it’s hard to ignore the symptoms of a heart attack. “Two-thirds of women will have non-Hollywood heart attack symptoms,” says K. Noel Bairy Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.
Although the more obvious symptoms are chest tightness and upper body pain, a heart attack can have many symptoms that can be mistaken for other conditions (nausea, heartburn, fatigue, etc.). Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack and getting immediate help can mean the difference between life and death. Here are the most common symptoms to watch out for.
- UNCOMFORTABLE PRESSURE.
According to the American Heart Association, the first symptom of a heart attack is “uncomfortable pressure, tightness, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest.” This discomfort may appear in waves lasting more than a few minutes at a time.
- PAIN IN OTHER PARTS OF THE BODY.
Heart attack pain can occur in places other than the chest, such as the back, shoulders, arms, neck, or jaw. According to the Cleveland Clinic, when there’s a problem with the heart, such as a blocked artery, it can trigger nerves in your heart to signal that something’s wrong, causing you to feel pain. The vagus nerve is connected not only to the heart, but also to the brain, chest, abdomen, and neck, so it can sense pain signals in other parts of the body besides the heart region.
- USE YOUR HEAD.
Many things can make you dizzy: not drinking enough water, skipping lunch, getting up too early. But dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain, and shortness of breath can mean low blood volume, low blood pressure, and heart attack.
It’s normal to feel tired after a sleepless night or a stressful day. But women are more likely to feel fatigued a month before a heart attack, according to the Harvard Medical Press. According to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, this symptom is especially common in women.
- NAUSEA OR INCONVENIENCE.
According to Stoney Brook Medicine, stomach symptoms such as stomach pain, vomiting, and cramping occur when the heart and other parts of the body do not have enough blood supply. It can be misdiagnosed as acid reflux or heartburn, so it’s important to see your doctor if you experience other symptoms of a heart attack.
If you haven’t gone through menopause or just haven’t exercised, cold sweats or excessive sweating can indicate a heart attack. During a heart attack, your nervous system activates the “fight or flight” response, which puts you in survival mode and causes you to sweat.
- HEART ENLARGEMENT.
When the blood supply to the heart is insufficient, various things can happen to the body. According to Stoney Brook Medicine, the heart begins to become irritable due to a lack of nutrient-rich blood, which causes palpitations. If you feel like you’re having heart palpitations, see your doctor right away.
If climbing stairs was a breeze, but climbing has become increasingly difficult lately, seek immediate medical attention. While this doesn’t mean you’re having a heart attack right now, it could be a sign that your heart is in danger. According to the AHA, shortness of breath can occur with or without chest pain.