There are many different indicators that you could be having a heart attack or that your heart health needs urgent investigation.
Most don’t involve the classic Hollywood symptoms of a crushing pain in the chest.
Men and women often experience quite different warning signs.
Rarely but sometimes, heart problems may manifest themselves in younger people.
The basic rule we should all follow is “if in doubt, have it checked out”.
That holds true even more so for people aged over 60 or with any heart health risk factors including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity or diabetes.
Not everyone gets a second chance.
Here is a checklist of heart attack warning signs to be wary of, along with some other symptoms that may indicate or lead to heart issues.
Heart health risk 1: Chest pain
The most common symptom of a heart attack reveals itself as a thumping pain, pressure or tightness in the chest.
Some people report it feeling like a great weight on their chest while others describe it more as a pinching or burning sensation.
If the feeling lasts more than a few minutes, time is of the essence and you should call an ambulance (000) immediately.
Heart health risk 2: Shortness of breath
The other classic symptom is shortness of breath.
Women tend to experience this more often than men.
If there is no obvious reason for the symptom, there is no time to waste. Call an ambulance.
Heart health risk 3: Nausea, indigestion or stomach pain
These symptoms are also more common amongst women and often lead to vomiting.
Most upset stomachs are of course not heart-related but it is important to be aware of the possibility and understand your risk factors when making an urgent assessment of your condition.
Heart health risk 4: Sweating
Sweating for no apparent reason is another common symptom that accompanies a heart attack.
It often occurs with another one or more symptoms.
If that is the case, don’t delay, call an ambulance!
Heart health risk 5: Pain or numbness in left arm
A heart attack is triggered when a coronary artery becomes blocked.
This causes a lack of blood flow which can cause numbness in your left arm.
It may also present as weakness or coldness in the arm.
Sometimes, that pain may even be felt sharply in the back.
Again, call an ambulance, there is no time to waste.
Heart health risk 6: Throat, neck or jaw pain
There can be many reasons for pain in your head or neck including sinus or muscular problems.
But a heart attack is also one of them and needs to be considered.
Heart health risk 7: Tiring easily
If you find you are tiring much more quickly than you used to, it shouldn’t be dismissed by the notion of “getting older”.
If you are starting to labour with short walks that shouldn’t puff you, see a doctor.
Women sometimes experience unexplained weakness or extreme exhaustion, potentially for days on end.
Tiring easily during exercise may also point to a congenital heart defect that may not have been diagnosed at birth.
Heart health risk 8: Feeling dizzy or light-headed
There are many reasons one may faint or feel dizzy including a drop in glucose levels.
But in tandem with any shortness of breath or chest pain, it may be because of a lack of blood pressure owing to a blockage in the heart.
It is recommended you call an ambulance at once.
Heart health risk 9: Swollen legs, ankles or feet
This is another sign that your heart isn’t pumping blood to the rest of the body as well as it might.
When this occurs, blood backed up in the veins can cause bloating in the limbs.
It may also be triggered by the struggle of your kidneys to remove extra water and sodium from the body.
Heart health risk 10: A persistent cough
Another symptom that usually indicates something much less serious, this is another to consider in concert with others.
In particular, a persistent cough with white or pink mucus could indicate some sort of heart failure as a result of blood leaking back into the lungs.
It could also indicate endocarditis, an infection of the heart valves and lining of the heart chambers.
Book an appointment with your GP at once.
Heart health risk 11: Snoring
Most of us snore to some degree at night but persistent loud snoring can suggest sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea is when we briefly stop breathing in our sleep, often several times a night.
This puts extra stress on the heart which in turn increases our risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure.
Your GP may suggest a sleep study and ultimately the employment of a CPAP machine to help you breath better at night.
Heart health risk 12: Irregular heartbeat
Our hearts can race for many reasons and it is perfectly normal including exercise, excitement and that morning coffee hit.
But if you sense your heart is beating wildly for longer than a few seconds and without obvious explanation, get it checked out.
It may point to atrial fibrillation which can be addressed either with drugs or a procedure.
Both a racing heartbeat (tachycardia) or a slow heartbeat (bradycardia) are symptoms that need to be investigated urgently.
Book an appointment now
Heart health is never anything to be blasé about.
While there are many indicators of potential heart problems, the following four symptoms should prompt immediate action:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness in an arm
Many other symptoms may not indicate a heart problem in isolation but should always be explored immediately by your GP.
At AHA Clinics, our doctors will investigate your heart health and chart your risk profile.
They will also offer advice about changes to your lifestyle including your exercise routine and diet.
And they will refer you to a cardiologist for further investigation if necessary.
But please remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry so if in any doubt about your symptoms, call an ambulance at once.
Otherwise, book an appointment here today so we can investigate any of your heart concerns.
Even if you have no symptoms, a heart check-up every two years makes good sense for anyone in their mid-40s.