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Knowing when it's a heart attack

Daily exercise helps prevent heart disease and keeps you feeling young.
Daily exercise helps prevent heart disease and keeps you feeling young.
Photo, courtesy of Stock.XCHNG

There have been many advances in cardiac technology in the last several years. Even so, there are 1,255,000 new and recurrent coronary attacks annually, according to recent reports from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Additional reports state that there is an estimated 500,000 new cases of angina (chest pain due to coronary heart disease) every year.

Experts say that most often, within a month before a heart attack, the patient may experience mild chest pain, unexplained fatigue and ill health. Just before a heart attack, the patient may feel shortness of breath and chest pain that does not go away with medication or rest. Other warning signs, reports the American Heart Association, are the following:

•     Chest discomfort - Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
•     Discomfort in other areas of the upper body - both arms, the back, neck,  jaw or stomach.
•     Shortness of breath.
•     Other signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Sometimes a heart attack comes on suddenly; other symptoms appear slowly, as experienced recently by Amelia Auer, a resident of Kingston, New York. Auer said she felt “something was wrong,” when she returned from a family vacation in Orlando, and learned she had broken her back. What she didn’t know was that she had the beginning symptoms of heart failure.

“After the back surgery, I went home but still felt terrible. I couldn’t breathe, and was taken to the emergency room and then put in the ICU of Benedictine Hospital,” said Auer. “The doctors performed bypass surgery and discovered I had a 30 percent blockage. After returning home, I had another heart attack. I was put on a strict diet and exercise regimen later,” said Auer.

Auer takes precautions to prevent future heart failure, as recommended by her doctor. She no longer cooks with salt, eats a diet consisting of healthy foods, walks regularly, and practices special breathing exercises.

As with men, a common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. Women may also experience other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Learning the signs of a heart attack is crucial, but if there is any doubt about your symptoms, have a doctor examine you immediately. Be sure to call 911 or your fire department’s emergency response number, as they have the experience and knowledge to help.

Hospitals nationwide are developing criteria for quickly determining which patients with chest or back pain should be hospitalized and which ones can safely go home after hours of observation. Key diagnostic tests, such as a cardiac panel, are important in the diagnosis of a heart attack.

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Comments

  • Vivian Ellis 4 years ago

    I think that too many women believe that only men have heart attacks. Women should know the symptoms, which are different for them. This article raises awareness and that is very important.