By Lara Adejoro
Recognising the early warning symptoms of a heart attack can save lives. However, symptoms of a heart attack vary. Some people have mild symptoms, others have severe symptoms, and some people have no symptoms.
A heart attack occurs when an artery that sends blood and oxygen to the heart is blocked. Fatty, cholesterol-containing deposits build up over time, forming plaques in the heart’s arteries. If a plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form. The clot can block arteries, causing a heart attack. During a heart attack, a lack of blood flow causes the tissue in the heart muscle to die.
A former Director and National Coordinator, Non-Communicable Diseases for the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Nnenna Ezeigwe, four out of five cardiovascular disease deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes.
Below are some of the early signs of heart attack:
Chest pain: According to the National Health Service, one of the signs of a heart attack is a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness, or squeezing across the chest. This discomfort mostly happens in the centre or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, it can go away or come back subsequently.
Shortness of breath: This is a common sign of a silent heart attack. It can happen with or without chest pain. You may also feel dizzy or lightheaded.
Sweating: Sweating more than usual, especially if you are not exercising or being active could be an early warning sign of heart problems. An article on an online health portal, Healthline, notes that pumping blood through clogged arteries takes more effort from your heart, so your body sweats more to try to keep your body temperature down during the extra exertion. If you experience cold sweats or clammy skin, then you should consult your doctor.
“Night sweats are also a common symptom for women experiencing heart troubles. Women may mistake this symptom for an effect of menopause. However, if you wake up and your sheets are soaked or you cannot sleep due to your sweating, this could be a sign of a heart attack, especially in women,” it adds.
Pains: Pains or discomfort that spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, teeth, or sometimes the upper belly are also signs of a heart attack.
A Professor of Cardiology at the BHF Centre of Research Excellence, Prof Newby was quoted by The Daily Express as saying, “If your pain is going down the arm, especially the left arm, or into the neck that makes it more likely to be heart-related than indigestion.
“If it doesn’t go away, or if you know you have heart disease and have used your glyceryl trinitrate spray two or three times to no discernible effect, you should be seeking emergency medical advice.”
Feeling sick: Prof Newby said if an individual is experiencing intense chest pain even when just sitting around doing nothing and feeling sick, it may be a sign of a heart attack. While not every episode of nausea indicates a heart attack, experiencing chest pain alongside nausea should raise concerns.
Experts say some heart attacks strike suddenly. But, many people have warning signs and symptoms hours, days, or weeks in advance. According to them, chest pain or pressure that keeps happening and does not go away with rest may be an early warning sign of the attack.