Recognizing a heart attack early

By Dr Harold Gunatillake FRCS, FICS, FIACS, MBBS AM (Sing)


If you are over fifty, leading a sedentary sort of life, with stress of life coupled with the junk food you eat and being overweight, may be having diabetes and or hypertension, then you need to be very careful and be aware of early symptoms of heart disease

The early symptoms may be so mild that you’ll not take them seriously and brush them off as aches and pains. If the symptoms are for a second or two, then perhaps it is not indicative of a heart attack.

Most active people may not get the typical symptoms, but may be just tiredness progressively getting worse. This is due to the heart not getting enough oxygen through the arterial blood in the coronaries.

Shortness of breath is another symptom you’ll have to be careful of. Walking a short distance, which you did earlier with ease, may be an early sign of heart being deprived of oxygen. You need to see your doctor soon as this could mean that a heart attack is about to occur.

Some individuals feel like a toothache coming on intermittently. You might see the dentist and he may not find a dental problem. Think of seeing your doctor to check up on your heart functions.

Excruciating pain in the centre of the chest, as if you are being gripped by a vise, is obviously early angina and you need to rush to the closest hospital.

Sometimes, the pain and discomfort is felt in your left arm radiating down to your wrist region. Think of the heart and see your doctor immediately.

Some people feel the pain in the back of the chest, and others may have abdominal symptoms like bloating and nausea with vomiting.

Dizzy feeling is a sure sign that the brain is getting starved of oxygen with a restricted blood flow. This is life threatening in itself, and need to get the ambulance immediately. If you have a blood pressure apparatus, you need to check your BP immediately.

Some experience a suffocating feeling with pain referred to the jaw, neck, or face in the form of tension restricting those areas of muscles.

Silent heart attacks: When you get an electro-cardiograph done on your routineexamination, sometimes your doctor may surprise you that you have had a silent heart attack. You should then reduce all the risk factors, such as obesity, control diabetes and blood pressure and do some exercise daily. You need to be careful of your diet.

The symptoms of heart attacks on women may slightly differ from those on men. Most women heart attack symptoms include chest pain, or discomfort, abdominal pain, cold sweating, fatigue and shortness of breath. Women sometimes experience a different type of chest discomfort than is typical in men having heart attacks.

Those on beta-blocker medication for hypertension may not have typical chest pain when having a heart attack. It could be more breathless or with other symptoms

The incidence of heart attacks are on the increase may be due to environmental pollution, over-indulging life-styles with the belief that you would not be a victim of heart disease. If there is a history of heart disease in the family you need to take all the precautions to avoid the risk factors.

There are some individuals, very careful with diet, jogging daily, keeping ultra-fit, very health conscious, but still having heart attacks. In these situations there is an unavoidable familial factor.

The chances of getting heart attacks among diabetics are fourfold. They need to strictly control their blood sugar levels.

Hypertension: A common cause of heart strain is due to high blood pressure. High blood pressure has no symptoms during the early years, as the body systems accommodate the high pressure, until one day you may just collapse. So, check your BP frequently. You never know whether you have high blood pressure unless you check your BP with your own home apparatus.

Be in touch with a cardiologist if you have a history of heart disease in the family. As a routine, once a year he will do a blood analysis, treadmill walk stress test, echocardiogram and a physical examination, for peace of mind.


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