What are the Symptoms and Warning Signs of a Heart Attack?
Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
There are a range of risk factors that make an individual more prone to cardiovascular disease and suffering a heart attack.
Some of these risk factors include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Poor lifestyle choices
The age that increased risk becomes a factor for heart attacks differs for men and women. For men, the age a heart attack begins to become more likely is 45 while for women the age is 55.
Obesity has been a growing issue in the western world, and with it comes a greater risk for a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease. Carrying around extra weight forces the heart to work harder to deliver the required oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in the body.
High cholesterol is another risk factor for heart problems. The focus here is on the harmful type of cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol. High levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can cause plaque to build up on the artery walls, making blood flow more difficult.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, increases the risk of a heart attack by putting excess stress on the coronary arteries. This stress can damage the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden. High blood pressure makes the heart work extra hard, but the pumping action is less effective due to narrowed arteries.
Type 2 Diabetes
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is steadily on the rise in North America. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves associated with the heart, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
If your family has a history of heart disease, it can also increase your risk for heart problems and heart attack. Genetic factors have been shown to play some role in cardiovascular disease, and risk factors for it, like high blood pressure. Aside from genetic heredity, family history may also play a role through shared environment and learned life practices.
We already looked at how age affects risk factors for each gender, with men being at a greater risk of heart attack at a lower age. In fact, men are at a greater risk in general for heart problems. Women, however, have reported experiencing symptoms far in advance of a heart attack, such as unexplained fatigue, sleep issues, respiratory problems, anxiety, and indigestion.
Poor Lifestyle Choices
Unhealthy choices are also a risk factor for heart attack. Things like poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and excess use of alcohol and narcotics can all contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
Symptoms and Warning Signs of Heart Attack
A quick reaction in the instance of a heart attack can make all the difference for a successful recovery. Knowing what to look for can help save a life, and some of the symptoms to watch for include:
- Chest pains
- Tightness in the chest, arms, neck, back, or jaw
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of breath
- Cold sweats
- General weakness
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Lips, hands, or feet turning blue
- Swelling in the joints
- Incessant cough that produces white or pink mucous
These are some examples of possible symptoms of a heart attack. Each situation will be different, so it is critical to be able to recognize all the factors. Some people experience more pronounced symptoms, while others have milder ones.
Sometimes a heart attack might strike suddenly, other times symptoms appear days or even weeks in advance. If you notice that you or a loved one are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, it is better to err on the side of caution and call 911 immediately.