Signs of a Heart Attack

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on April 25th, 2013)

Like in last week’s post on Stroke I would like to take some time and discuss another important event where timely care is extremely important. A Heart Attack. Most people know that chest and left arm pain are the symptoms of a heart attack but there is definitely more to the picture than that.

These symptoms are often described as a warm or burning pain in the chest and arm. They are also associated with a feeling of pressure on or around the chest, often described as, “an elephant sitting on my chest”. This pressure can be accompanied or preceded by shortness of breath and sometimes light headedness. Some people will lose consciousness with a heart attack due to this.

As I said, this is the most typical picture of a heart attack presented to us as the general public but there are different ways for it to show up. The most common way for a heart attack to present itself is in the pressure I described above or as a vague discomfort in the mid or left chest.

The main sign to look for is a new pain or sensation in the chest or a change in a usual pattern.

Other symptoms that are not as chest centric can occur during a heart attack such as nausea and vomiting, cold sweats, dizziness, and left sided neck and jaw pain. In women, especially over 40-50, some heart attacks have been noted as pain between the shoulder blades.

All new pain and symptoms should be checked out by a healthcare professional but some do not require immediate care. If you think that you or someone else is having a heart attack be sure to call 911 as soon as you can. A speedy response can make all the difference in the world in situations like this.

The general rule of thumb is call 911 when in doubt but here are some handy tips if you can’t quite tell if you or someone else is in trouble. Many of the above symptoms can be caused by other conditions that are significantly less life threatening but almost all of these can be localized to a specific point of origin. So if you can literally put your finger on a point and say, “This is where my pain is from!” then it is most likely not a heart attack. The pain associated with a heart attack is generally widespread and vague in nature. That being said if you have a number of these symptoms all together then that definitely raises your risk and you should seek help immediately.

I hope all picked up something from this or that this is all old, well known information for you. The more you know the better you will be able to help either yourself or someone else in an emergency.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

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