Whether you’ve suffered one yourself or have experienced the shock of a loved one being struck by a heart-attack, it can be devastating. Especially when it seems like a bolt out of the blue. And sadly, this is the case for thousands of people across the UK each year.
A heart attack is one of the most serious medical emergencies and they can often be fatal or life-changing. They require immediate medical attention and can seemingly strike from nowhere – happening when blood cannot reach the heart, usually due to a blood clot.
Known medically as myocardial infarctions, where ‘myo’ means muscle, ‘cardial’ refers to the heart, and ‘infarction’ refers to the death of cell tissue due to a lack of blood supply, a heart attack is when the heart muscle is damaged because it doesn’t have enough oxygen to function.
Thankfully, your body will display eight warning signs at least a month before a heart attack. Some of these signs are quite common symptoms of other conditions, so don’t worry if you have only one, although all are worth checking.
And if you’ve noticed a few of them recently, it’s definitely worth consulting your GP or phoning the NHS on 111.
Remember, if you’re suffering a medical emergency, always dial 999 immediatly.
Here are the eight warning signs you make have a heart attack in the next month, reports our sister site Plymouth Live.
Eight warning signs before a heart attack
Fatigue affects 70 per cent of women, and if it is not something you normally suffer with, it can be one of the main symptoms that indicates an impending heart attack.
Whilst men have reported this symptom, it is most likely to affect women, according to Brightside.
Fatigue can be described as extreme tiredness, lack of energy and motivation, both physically and mentally, and it increases by the end of the day.
It can make simple tasks such as making a bed or showering exhausting.
Abdominal pain is diagnosed in 50 per cent of cases of a heart attack.
Empty or full stomach nausea, feeling bloated or having an upset stomach are the most common symptoms, and are likely to occur in both men and women.
Abdominal pains before a heart attack have an episodic nature, easing and then returning for short periods of time. Physical tension might worsen upset stomach pains.
Insomnia affects 50 per cent of women and can also include a high level of anxiety or absentmindedness.
Symptoms include difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, and early-morning awakening.
Shortness of breath
This symptom is diagnosed in 40 per cent of cases and is a strong feeling of being unable to draw a deep breath.
It often occurs among both men and women for up to 6 months prior to having a heart attack. It’s usually a warning sign of a medical condition.
Hair loss as a symptom of a heart problem affects men over 50.
It can be considered a visible indicator of heart disease, and baldness can also be associated with an increased level of the hormone cortisol.
This symptom occurs with no influence of external factors.
Skipped beats or arrhythmias are often accompanied by a panic attack and anxiety, especially among women.
It appears unexpectedly and reveals itself differently: arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or tachycardia (increased heart rate).
Physical exercises might give an extra stimulus to the increase of heart rate, especially in cases with atherosclerosis disease.
Some people report that the irregular heartbeat lasts for 1-2 minutes. If it doesn’t fade you may feel dizziness or extreme fatigue.
If you are suffering this symptom speak to a GP immediately or call 111.
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Unusual or excessive sweating is an early warning sign of a heart attack.
It might occur at any time of the day or night. This symptom affects women more often and is usually confused with the hot flashes or night sweats typical of menopause.
It is described as flu-like symptoms, clammy skin, or sweatiness occurring regardless of air temperature or physical exertion. Sweating seems to be more excessive at night; the bedsheets might be damp by morning.
Men and women experience chest pains in different intensities and forms.
In men, this symptom refers to the most important early signs of an impending heart attack that should not be ignored. On the other hand, it affects only 30 per cent of women.
Chest pain can expand to uncomfortable sensations in one or both arms (more often the left one), the lower jaw, neck, shoulders, or stomach.
It may have a permanent or temporary character.
If you are suffering this symptom, speak to your GP immediately or call 111 for advice.
For more information, visit Brightside, here.
What the NHS advise
If you think you, or someone you are with, is suffering from a heart attack, after dialling 999 it may help to chew and then swallow a tablet of aspirin – as long as the person having the suspected heart attack is not allergic to the tablet.
The aspirin helps to thin the blood and reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Read about treating heart attacks here.
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- chest pain – the chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back
- shortness of breath
- feeling weak and/or lightheaded
- overwhelming feeling of anxiety
It’s important to stress that not everyone experiences severe chest pain; the pain can often be mild and mistaken for indigestion .
It’s the combination of symptoms that’s important in determining whether a person is having a heart attack, and not the severity of chest pain.
Read about the symptoms of a heart attack.
Preventing a heart attack
There are five main steps you can take to reduce your risk of having a heart attack (or having another heart attack):
- Smokers should quit smoking
- Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese
- Take regular exercise – adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, unless advised otherwise by the doctor in charge of your care
- Eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet , including whole grains and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day)
- Moderate your alcohol consumption