Heart attacks are a serious medical emergency and can be life-threatening or life-changing. They usually happen when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked. This most often happens due to a blood clot. The symptom most commonly associated with having a heart attack is chest pain. But pain in the chest doesn’t always occur, and if it does, can sometimes feel very minor. The NHS advises that you can determine whether someone is having a heart attack or not by the “overall pattern” of symptoms. So what are the symptoms?
It’s important to stress that not everyone experiences severe chest pain
If you do experience chest pain during a heart attack, the feeling it is described as is a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of the chest.
This may make the chest feel like it is being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object.
The pain can also spread from the chest to the arms, jaw, neck, back and abdomen.
Chest pain associated with a heart attack can be very severe, but it can also be much more subtle and cause a feeling similar to indigestion.
Pain in the chest doesn’t always come on suddenly either, and may develop slowly.
In some cases, there may not be any chest pain at all, especially in women, the elderly and people with diabetes.
“It’s important to stress that not everyone experiences severe chest pain,” warns the NHS.
Chest pain aside, the other six main symptoms of a heart attack are feeling lightheaded or dizzy, sweating, shortness of breath, feeling or being sick, coughing or wheezing and feeling like you are having a panic attack.
“It’s the overall pattern of symptoms that helps to determine whether you are having a heart attack,” said the NHS.
Because most people associate a heart attack with severe chest pain, in cases where it is minor or not present, it could easily be shrugged off.
Early warning signs of a heart attack
Although chest pain is often severe, sometimes people only suffer minor pain, similar to indigestion. Here are some of the early warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
But if you experience other heart attack symptoms, with or without chest pain, it’s always best to seek medical help.
The NHS warns on the importance of always calling 999 if you suspect the symptoms of a heart attack, even if you have doubts.
“Don’t worry if you have doubts. Paramedics would rather be called out to find an honest mistake has been made than be too late to save a person’s life,” said the health body.
The biggest cause of heart attacks is coronary heart disease – a condition in which the blood vessels supplying the heart are clogged up with cholesterol.
People at risk of developing coronary heart disease, and therefore having a heart attack, include those who smoke, eat a high-fat diet, are overweight, and have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Heart attacks can also be caused by misuse of drugs and a lack of oxygen in the blood.
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