- There are several possible symptoms of heart attacks
- Chest pain is not the only sign of heart attack
- Heart attack symptoms should not be ignored
World Heart Day is observed on 29 September every year. Cardiovascular diseases affect a large population today. It is important to create awareness about the different heart disease, risk factors and prevention methods. Heart attack is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases. One may experience heart attack symptoms. It is true that chest pain or angina is the most common symptom of heart attack, however it's not the only one and it's important to remember that it may not be present in all the cases. This basically means that you can have a heart attack in absence of chest pain too, and sometimes with no other symptoms these are called as silent heart attacks. It is very common in diabetics especially in those left uncontrolled. But let's first talk of other symptoms that signify heart attack.
Symptoms of heart attack other than chest pain
1. Breathlessness on exertion
Any undue breathlessness on minimal exertion may be an early warning sign and is now considered equivalent to angina. This is the second most common sign and should never be ignored.
2. Chest discomfort
Often the pain is missing but a central heaviness or discomfort may be present. Usually description varies from person to person but usually they mention an abnormal sensation or heaviness coupled with breathing.
3. Epigastric discomfort and heartburn
Epigastrium is region overlying stomach and is surrounds the abdomen and chest. People often describe fullness, epigastric pain, and belching. Indian patients often describe this as gas, these symptoms of angina mimic dyspepsia and often cause a significant delay in seeking treatment.
4. Post prandial angina
Chest pain or discomfort after meals happens in patients with advanced coronary lesions and should not be taken lightly.
5. Upper back pain
Pain in upper central back, midway between two scapulae is a classic symptom of cardiac problem and often happens in patients with heart attacks. The pain is in midline and upper back.
6. Nausea and vomiting
Any kind of chest discomfort with nausea or vomiting may be a sign of heart attack.
Indian patients describe it as ghabharahat but cardiology textbook describe it as a sense of impending doom, this feeling has been reported by many patients and is also associated with cold sweat on forehead and palms.
Chest pain may be a classic sign of heart attack radiating to left arm but may have myriad of presentations like, jaw pain, neck pain, epigastric pain. Silent heart attacks-a proportion of patients will not have any chest pain but have only one or few of the above symptoms and such heart attacks are called silent heart attacks that are common in diabetics because of diabetic neuropathy the pain is not perceived but they will most commonly experience breathlessness on exertion and should not ignore it.
Who is at a higher risk of heart attack?
Following people may need to be more alert about these symptoms and should seek prompt medical attention if they have any of the above.
- Age above 40, diabetic or hypertensive
- Smoker or suffering from obesity
- High cholesterol and lipids in blood
- Those following a sedentary and stressful lifestyle
- And others with strong family history of heart disease
Prevention is better than cure however when you get symptoms they should not be ignored or taken lightly and prompt medical advice should be taken, as these symptoms may be a warning sign for a potentially life threatening heart attack.
(Dr. Vaibhav Mishra, Director & HOD - Adult CTVS, Fortis Hospital, Noida)
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