Chest pain is not the sole warning indicator of a heart attack, as researchers say several less obvious signs might emerge in advance
A myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when a portion of the heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood. If treatment to restore blood flow is not administered within a reasonable amount of time, the heart muscle will sustain more extensive damage.
Although excruciating chest pain is a common symptom when a heart attack is taking place, this is in no way the sole warning indication. In point of fact, several less obvious warning indicators might emerge in advance.
Symptoms of a heart attack in women are often “unnoticed.” These less obvious symptoms include: back pain, dizziness, fainting, pressure, fullness, or squeezing pain in the center of the chest, extending to the neck, shoulder, or jaw; unusual fatigue; unusual shortness of breath; upper abdominal pressure or discomfort; and vomiting.
Pain or discomfort in the chest, pain in other parts of the upper body, shortness of breath, and breaking out in a cold sweat are some of the more common indicators of a heart attack, but all of the aforementioned signs may occur “hours or weeks” before the actual heart attack.
Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences set out to determine the probability of several warning signs of an early heart attack in women. According to the findings of the research, women who had previously had heart attacks recalled feeling unusual fatigue or other new symptoms up to a month before the event, which suggests that there may be a new method for avoiding heart attacks before they occur.
In the research that was initially published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, Professor McSweeney served as a lead researcher.
Jean C. McSweeney, Ph.D., R.N., of the UAMS College of Nursing said that “new or different fatigue, sleep problems, shortness of breath, indigestion, and anxiety could be early warning signs of heart disease. The appearance of these new symptoms, in conjunction with women’s standard cardiovascular risk factors, should help providers recognise women who should be thoroughly checked for heart disease.”
Researchers at UAMS discovered that 95 percent of women who had heart attacks reported experiencing new symptoms more than a month before their attack. The study was conducted over the course of three years and included participants from Arkansas, North Carolina, and Ohio.
At the time of its publication, the American Heart Association referred to the research as “one of the first comprehensive examinations of issues that might allow prevention of an imminent heart attack in women.” The study was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research.
The most prevalent early symptoms that women reported experiencing were unusual fatigue (remembered by 70% of women), sleep disturbance (remembered by 48% of women), shortness of breath (remembered by 42% of women), indigestion (remembered by 39% of women), and anxiety (35% of women). The symptoms stopped after their heart attacks.
Only 30 percent of women in the survey remembered chest discomfort, which they usually described as aching, tightness, or pressure but not pain.
“Women need to understand that the appearance of new symptoms could warn of an imminent heart attack or the development of heart disease, especially if they have other cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight, or a family history of heart disease,” Professor McSweeney said.
In previous research, Professor McSweeney and her colleagues discovered that women who reported experiencing a range of symptoms in the month leading up to their heart attacks either ignored the signs or were given the incorrect diagnosis when they sought medical attention.
Women also tend to have different symptoms during heart attacks. Rather than the chest pain that men typically experience, women are more likely to have shortness of breath (58 percent), weakness (55 percent), unusual fatigue (43 percent), a cold sweat (39 percent), and dizziness (39 percent).
If you think someone might be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately because the faster you act, the better their chances are. If you have had a heart attack, it’s important that you rest while you wait for help to avoid unnecessary strain on your heart. If aspirin is available and you are not allergic to it, slowly chew and then swallow an adult-size tablet (300 mg) while you wait for the responding crews.