Heart attack - Symptoms

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The symptoms of heart attack can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?

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What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Although chest pain or pressure is the most common symptom of a heart attack, heart attack victims may experience a variety of symptoms including:

  • Pain, fullness, and/or squeezing sensation of the chest
  • Jaw pain, toothache, headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or general epigastric (upper middle abdomen) discomfort
  • Sweating
  • Heartburn and/or indigestion
  • Arm pain (more commonly the left arm, but may be either arm)
  • Upper back pain
  • General malaise (vague feeling of illness)
  • No symptoms (Approximately one quarter of all heart attacks are silent, without chest pain or new symptoms. Silent heart attacks are especially common among patients with diabetes mellitus.)

Even though the symptoms of a heart attack at times can be vague and mild, it is important to remember that heart attacks producing no symptoms or only mild symptoms can be just as serious and life-threatening as heart attacks that cause severe chest pain. Too often patients attribute heart attack symptoms to "indigestion," "fatigue," or "stress," and consequently delay seeking prompt medical attention. One cannot overemphasize the importance of seeking prompt medical attention in the presence of new symptoms that suggest a heart attack. Early diagnosis and treatment saves lives, and delays in reaching medical assistance can be fatal. A delay in treatment can lead to permanently reduced function of the heart due to more extensive damage to the heart muscle. Death also may occur as a result of the sudden onset of arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation.

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Comment from: FedWorker, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 13

I have high blood pressure (BP) and a very stressful job. I think I had a heart attack on February 27th while at work. I was not feeling well and stepped into the restroom. I began to sweat profusely, shaking. Too embarrassed to call for help from the stall, I waited for it to subside. Ten minutes later, I made my way back to my desk. Several people concerned with my paleness, sat with me. Suddenly my pants seemed too tight, and my shoes seemed too tight to keep them on. I knew something was seriously wrong, but didn't want to admit it. I asked to go home for the day and drove home. I checked my blood pressure and it was 193/123. I doubled up on my BP medicines and lay down. I got to the doctor 4 days later. BP was 156/108 and the doctor changed my medicines (new doctor). BP at this time going up and heart rate going down. I returned to the doctor 3 days after my 1st appointment. BP was 178/110 and heart rate 44. The doctor changed my medicines again. I had a week of fatigue and weakness. BP is now down but still not in normal range, heart rate back where it should be. EKG and next appointment is on March 17th. I do not know if they can tell me if it was a heart attack. But hindsight being 20/20, I believe it was and I am lucky it was not worse. Lesson to learn, don't be embarrassed, call for help or 911.

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Comment from: zr800o1le, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: April 19

My wife aged 48, healthy, active, and a nonsmoker, just had the 'widow maker' heart attack. There were no usual signs, she started having pains in her left shoulder, front and back. It was diagnosed by our family doctor of 20 years, as bursitis. Stress test showed nothing irregular, chiropractic massage seemed to help it, only it would return in a few days. Here it is 3 months later. Four days ago she woke me at 3 a.m. crying in pain but wouldn't let me take her to emergency room (stubborn). Next day all was well, we had dinner together. As her husband of 27 plus years I didn't even see the difference in color/tone of skin. Next day at work she was in great pain again, a coworker had seen she was pale, ambulance called, nitroglycerin given, and baby aspirins. While in ambulance EKG showed she was having heart attack. When she arrived the doctor grabbed me and said, This is bad, EKG shows she is having a massive heart attack now. Sir, you have 5 to 7 seconds to tell her you love her and kiss her goodbye. Five people ran pushing her down the hallway so fast to surgery I couldn't keep up. Heart surgeon came out a while later with a picture and showed me, main artery 99 percent blocked, left artery 98 percent blocked, and 3rd 68 percent. Four hours later she was sitting up talking, 16 hours later, it's as if my wife has 'new life', more spunk than in the past 5 years. Heart surgeon said that 99 percent of all women who have this degree of heart attack die, and could not believe she was sitting up talking to him only 16 hours later. She is lucky! Ladies, please get a second and third opinion, don't be stubborn as it could cost you your life.

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