By: Sreeni R. Gangasani M.D., FACC,
Cardiovascular Group PC,
Chief, Dept. of Medicine, Gwinnett Medical Center
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women.# About every 34 seconds someone has a heart attack in U.S. Coronary heart disease is caused by build-up of plaque in the arteries of the heart.# When plaque builds up, it narrows the coronary arteries, causing the heart to receive less blood which, in turn, leads to a heart attack.
A Heart Attack:# What”s Typical?
Chest discomfort or pain is the most common symptom. It feels like a tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in the center of the chest and it lasts more than a few minutes. This discomfort may come and go.# Associated symptoms include nausea and profuse sweating.# Pain or discomfort may spread beyond chest to include the shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or the jaw.# Patients may have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.# Stomach pain may extend downward into abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.# Patients may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. They may feel a sense of doom or feel as if they are having a panic attack for no apparent reason.# In addition to chest pressure, dizziness may ensue or the patient may lose consciousness or pass out, which is also a regular symptom.
Women and Heart Attacks
Women may have all, none, many or a few of the typical heart attack symptoms. For women, the most common heart attack symptom is still some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But women are more likely than are men to also have heart attack symptoms without chest pain, such as:
” #Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
” #Shortness of breath
” #Nausea or vomiting
” #Abdominal pain or “heartburn”
” #Sweating, lightheadedness or dizziness
” #Unusual or unexplained fatigue.
Most heart attacks begin with subtle symptoms.# Frequently, patients experience discomfort that is not described as pain. The chest discomfort may come and go. It”s critical that those who experience such symptoms treat the situation very seriously and that symptoms are not excused as indigestion or anxiety.
If symptoms last for more than five minutes, it”s imperative to call 911 or other emergency medical services for help. If there is no access to emergency medical services, have a friend or relative drive the patient to the nearest hospital.# The patient should only drive themselves as a last resort, if there are absolutely no other options.
Heart attack symptoms vary widely. For instance, some people may have only minor chest discomfort while others have excruciating pain.
I always tell people that one thing applies to everyone: If you suspect you”re having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately. If you are having symptoms consistently with exertional activities consult your doctor immediately for further evaluation.