While it can be a scary thing to think about, being aware of the signs and
symptoms of heart attacks is really important, not only for you, but for the people you love. The truth of the matter is, some of the ways that heart attacks hint at their arrival can be a lot less obvious than you might think. Being aware of the signs so you can recognize them in the moment, or even before an attack actually happens, can be potentially lifesaving.
"Early warning signs can occur with anyone,"
Nicole Weinberg, MD, cardiologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center, tells Bustle. "You can be a healthy exercising person with a healthy [lifestyle] and still have heart disease."
Once upon a time, Dr. Weinberg days, heart attack symptoms for women were less obvious than the symptoms that men showed, but we're now realizing that men often have these same more subtle signs as well.
Therefore, keeping on top of
any changes in your body is important. Dr. Weinberg says that if any new physical symptoms are showing up in your life, check in with a doctor and make sure that your heart is safe.
"An electrocardiogram and a stress test are very easy and low maintenance tests that can be life-saving," Dr. Weinberg says.
Take a look below at some of the early signs of a heart attack that you should not ignore.
Feeling Limited When You Exert Yourself Physically
Now, everyone can "feel it" after a long bike ride or going up six flights of stairs. But if you are feeling unusually limited or overexerted when you get physical, this is a sign that something is up.
signs of heart attack in women would include exceptional [physical] limitation," says Dr. Weinberg. "It is not necessarily specific to chest pain."
The important thing to note is that it occurs with exertion and with rest, it goes away. Use your best judgment to discern what feels out of the ordinary for you, and discuss it with your doctor.
Extreme Back Pressure With Shortness Of Breath
Dr. Weinberg says that
shortness of breath is a sign not to be ignored. While needing to catch your breath is one thing, feeling short of breath is another.
Dr. Weinberg says that this is an especially telling sign with younger women, since they are often exercising or moving about more, so there is a greater ability to evaluate things based on an ability to function, and breathe, normally.
Serious Discomfort In The Upper Body
It is not just the heart that feels the attack. And while often people think a heart attack might strike as acute or shooting pain, that is usually not the case.
Usually, people describe a feeling of oppressive discomfort and a heavy feeling that they don't call "pain", Dr.
Richard Wright, cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, tells Bustle. It is more like serious pressure.
It is most often
located in the center of the chest, he says, but frequently this discomfort will also be in other areas of the body above the waist.
That includes the left side of the chest, the neck and throat, the lower jaw, either shoulder, and the upper arms, most commonly the left arm.
Now, flu-like symptoms might seem like a vague indication, but again, if these are coupled with other symptoms, it is always good to check in with a doctor ASAP.
"It is commonplace that older people fail to appreciate that their symptoms are related to an ongoing heart attack, and simply think that they are ill, perhaps related to a gastrointestinal problem," says Dr. Wright.
Very frequently, however, there are other symptoms which could include a cold sweat, nausea, indigestion, heartburn, belching, and simply feeling poorly, says Dr. Wright.
Overall Fatigue And Weakness
Dr. Lina Velikova from
medalerthelp.org, tells Bustle that unexplained fatigue and weakness may be an early symptom of a heart attack.
"This isn’t the normal feeling of tiredness due to the lack of sleep," she says. "Sometimes, patients would report that they slept for 8 hours or more during the night and still felt exhausted."
If overall and habitual exhaustion is something you are dealing with, it's an indicator to check in with a professional.
Feelings Of Restlessness And Anxiety
Not surprisingly, there can also be emotional and mental signals that come along with the physical signs of a heart attack.
Dr. Velikova says that along with physical discomforts, many people she treats report feeling restless and anxious prior to a heart attack, but they simply thought it was everyday stress.
Coupled with other symptoms, this can indeed signal that something is up with your heart.
Dizziness And Lightheadedness
While feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous might show up in particular after some exertion, even if that is climbing stairs or walking up the hill, Dr. Velikova says that sometimes these symptoms happen without expending any energy. If you notice you feel this way when you're simply going about your day, check it out with a pro.
Unfortunately, as Dr. Richard Wright says, there is no simple way that someone can determine whether they themselves are having a heart attack if they have these signs or symptoms.
And yes, it is always best that if you're feeling off, to go visit your doctor before you Google to diagnose yourself. Nevertheless, early awareness of symptoms can only help in the long run!