In Australia, someone has a heart attack every 10 minutes. With advances in medicine, however, that’s no longer a death sentence – in fact, most people aged over 65 in Australia are living with some form of long-term cardiovascular disease. When it comes to a heart attack, the faster you can get treatment, the better your outcome is likely to be. When every minute counts, it’s important to know the signs of a heart attack so you can act quickly.
Not all heart attacks start with chest pain, but it is the most common sign of a heart attack. What you may not realise is that it’s not always a sudden, overwhelming pain. It may feel more uncomfortable than painful, and some people describe it as a squeezing or heavy sensation, not unlike heartburn. It may not be constant, either – be wary if pain like this goes away and comes back, or lasts more than a few minutes.
Men typically experience pain or heaviness more strongly on the left side, while women may feel it in both arms.
Pain may start in your chest and then move to your upper or lower back. When it comes to back pain and heart attack, be wary of pain that doesn’t seem to be linked to a particular muscle, or that comes out of nowhere – it may even wake you up at night.
You may experience pain or tightness in one or both sides of your jaw.
You may experience an aching pain in the neck, or it may feel more like a choking or burning feeling in your throat.
Nausea and loss of appetite can be signs that something is wrong with your heart. Nausea, in particular, is a sign of heart attack that women often experience and choose to ignore.
When it comes to heart attack and fatigue, look out for unusual fatigue, or feeling tired at times when you normally wouldn’t. This can mean anything from feeling unusually exhausted after your normal walk or trip to the gym, to feeling worn out after a trip to the bathroom. Heart-related fatigue may leave you feeling wiped out, while also having trouble sleeping.
Breaking out in a cold, clammy sweat even though you’re not pushing yourself hard can indicate that your heart is having trouble pumping.
No matter what the cause is, if you are ever experiencing difficulty breathing you should call an ambulance right away. It may be a sign of a heart attack, or a multitude of other serious conditions.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, call 000 and request an ambulance. It is important not to drive yourself or someone else to the hospital in these instances. If you have further heart trouble on the way, an ambulance is equipped to keep you alive. Your taxi driver is not. It’s also important to think of others – in the event that your heart troubles worsened while you’re behind the wheel, you run the risk of hurting someone else.
If there is even a possibility that you may be having a heart attack, don’t just brush it off or ‘let it pass’. The sooner you get medical help, the better. It might just save your life.