Showing posts with label heart attack symptoms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heart attack symptoms. Show all posts

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Surprising Heart Disease Symptoms You Might Not Recognize

Perhaps you get out of breath easily, and assume it is just because you are out-of-shape, or maybe you have leg pain and associate it with arthritis. You might experience some nausea or indigestion and blame it on something you ate, or a mild case of stomach flu. You probably believe that these discomforts have nothing to do with your heart health.  However, these are just a few of the surprising symptoms of heart disease which you may never have heard about, but they might mean you need to head to the emergency room or, at the very least, discuss these issues with your primary care doctor or a cardiologist.

Below are lists of both common and unusual heart disease and heart attack symptoms, as well as ways to reduce your heart attack risk.  They all are based on articles from AARP, as well as on WebMD and the Kaiser-Permanente website. Many of these symptoms are frequently mistaken for other health problems, such as arthritis or indigestion.  Women, in particular, may tend to dismiss their health symptoms as not being significant. However, it is important that everyone is familiar with all the unique signs that they may have heart disease or, worse, that they are on the verge of experiencing an immediate heart attack. 

In addition to what you learn later in this article, you may also want to get the book, "The Simple Heart Cure: The 90 Day Program to Stop and Reverse Heart Disease" (Ad) and try their recommended lifestyle changes, which can dramatically improve your heart heath. You could be surprised to discover that these changes not only help your heart, but also may relieve some of your other health conditions, too. For example, some of these changes might also reduce your diabetes risk, problems with osteoarthritis, and even lower your odds of developing certain types of cancer, especially the ones which are associated with diet and lifestyle issues. 

This book is partially based on research into several foreign cultures which have an exceptionally low risk of heart disease.  We can learn from them, regardless of where we live. People in some places around the world rarely get the diseases that many people in Western nations regularly die from.  With a few lifestyle changes, many of us will be able to avoid or reduce the symptoms mentioned below.

Common Symptoms of Heart Disease

Difficulty breathing, especially when lying flat on your back.  If you have fluid building up in your lungs, it may make it harder for you to breath when lying on your back. Other related problems can include sleep apnea and snoring.  

Hip and/or leg pain when walking can be a symptom of peripheral artery disease, which means you may have blockages in your leg arteries.  These blockages can cause pain which you may have thought was caused by arthritis.

Sexual or erectile dysfunction is frequently a blood-flow problem, indicating that your blood vessels are have difficulty expanding and contracting properly.  The blood flow issue is likely to also be affecting your heart, as well as your sex life, and this problem applies to both men and women who experience sexual dysfunction.

Unexplained fatigue could mean you have an obstructed coronary artery.  If you tire out easily after doing routine activities around your home, this could be a sign of decreased blood flow to the heart.

Waking up more than once a night in order to pee is another indication of heart disease. It is especially serious if you are also experiencing swollen ankles and legs, because that can mean that your heart is too weak to properly pump fluid to the kidneys during the day.

Bad breath and/or periodontal disease indicates that you have bacteria which can enter your bloodstream through bleeding and diseased gums.  This bacteria can cause inflammation, clogged arteries, and strokes.  Make sure you see your dentist regularly and follow their instructions, especially if you have other symptoms of heart disease.

You have fatty growths, usually near the ankles and elbows, known at xanthomas.  These are a symptom of high cholesterol, which can triple your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Swollen ankles and lower legs can mean that your leg veins are not able to return fluid to the heart.  If you have swelling in only one leg, it may be caused by a blood clot or infection.  If you have swollen feet or ankles, as well as some of the other symptoms listed above such as shortness of breath, you should contact your doctor immediately. 

Symptoms of an Imminent Heart Attack

Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women. However, sometimes people describe it as pressure, heaviness or tightness in the chest.  

The chest pain can also radiate to the neck, jaw, back or arm, causing pain in those areas.

Nausea or stomach pain, water retention, and bloating can sometimes be heart attack symptoms, especially in women, particularly when combined with any of the types of pain mentioned above.  

Sudden shortness of breath, particularly when combined with the above symptoms, means you should call 911 or have someone immediately take you to the emergency room.  You should also be alarmed if you get short of breath while doing something ordinary, such as grocery shopping or making the bed.  This is especially true for women, who tend to wait longer before they seek care.

Unexplained sweating or breaking out into a cold sweat for no reason, especially when combined with other symptoms, is another reason to suspect you are having a heart attack.

Overwhelming fatigue, dizziness or feeling light-headed for no reason should also alarm you.  If you find it nearly impossible to complete your normal activities, see your doctor. If you also have other symptoms, suspect a heart attack as a possible cause and go to the emergency room. You could be having a "silent heart attack," or one which is not accompanied by chest pain.

How to Lower Your Heart Attack Risk

The best way to reduce your risk of a heart attack is to make lifestyle changes and work with your doctor to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.  You may also want to make the following changes:

Stop Smoking. Nothing more needs to be said about that. We all know that smoking is a killer!

Get regular, moderate exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week.  This could include walking, swimming, housework, or gardening.

Change your diet and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  Reduce red meat and whole fat dairy, as well as commercial baked goods, which may contain transfats.  If you are not sure how to use your diet to reduce your heart disease risk, another book to consider is: "The Heart Disease Prevention Cookbook:  125 Easy Mediterranean Diet Recipes for a Healthier You." (Ad)  It could change your life and reduce your risk of other illnesses, as well.

Finally, follow your doctor's orders about diet, exercise, taking baby aspirin, staying hydrated, or taking a statin to lower your cholesterol.  If they recommend other medications, such as a blood pressure medication, be sure to carefully follow the instructions.  If you need special medical procedures, or the doctor recommends getting a pacemaker or heart stent, take advantage of these life saving devices.  We are fortunate to live in a time when many heart issues, and other health problems, can be mitigated with lifestyle changes, medications, and medical devices. 

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dangerous Silent Heart Attacks

A study that tracked nearly 9,500 men and women from 1987 to 2013 discovered that approximately 45% of heart attacks are silent and the victims have no idea that they have experienced a heart event.  Men are more likely to experience silent heart attacks, but women are more likely to die from them.  In fact, anyone who has experienced a silent heart attack has triple the risk of dying from heart disease and is 34% more likely to die from all other causes.

How Do You Know if You Have Had a Silent Heart Attack?

Since these types of heart attacks do not exhibit the classic symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath, how can someone find out whether or not they have had one?  A doctor can detect them with an EKG, which measures the heart's electrical activity.  In fact, most of the time people only learn that they have had one accidentally, during a routine physical.

What Symptoms Could Indicate You are Having a Silent Heart Attack?

The symptoms of a silent heart attack can be very subtle, but anyone should see their doctor for a physical if they are experiencing several of the following symptoms:

Unexplained fatigue
Muscle pain in the upper back, jaw or arms
Painful indigestion
Sudden sweatiness
Flu-like symptoms

Often, people do not recognize that they have had a heart attack at the time.  They only recognize these symptoms when a test shows damage to their heart and they look back and remember a time when they experienced some of the above symptoms.

Are These as Dangerous as "Typical" Heart Attacks?

Yes!  In fact, silent heart attacks can be even more dangerous than a typical one, because the patient may not get the treatment they need in order to prevent another one.  This lack of treatment is even more common for women than it is for men.

"Just a Little Heart Attack" is a short movie about silent heart attacks you can watch using the link to this CNN article:  "Almost Half of All Heart Attacks are Silent."

How Can You Reduce Your Heart Attack Risk?

If you would like to reduce your risk of having a heart attack, either your first or a second one, there are some steps your doctor can help you take.  You should quit smoking, lose weight, get exercise and, if appropriate, make sure your cholesterol and blood pressure are both under control.

Treatments for Silent Heart Attacks

Hospitals and doctors should treat you in the same way they would if you had experienced more traditional symptoms.  There is no difference in the damage that could have been caused by the different types of heart attacks and, in fact, the damage could be more severe in a silent one because of a delay in seeking treatment, since any heart attack will stop or reduce the flow of blood to the heart for a period of time.

If you have been experiencing unusual fatigue, nausea or shortness of breath, especially during mild exercise, you should talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

Interested in learning more about medical issues, financial planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, or other topics that pertain to Baby Boomers?  Use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Self Help Tips for Heart Attacks

Like thousands of other people every year, my brother-in-law had a heart attack while he was alone in his car.  He drove himself eight miles to a hospital, where he collapsed as he entered the emergency room.  Although he survived, no one recommends that you try to drive yourself to the hospital if you suspect you are having a heart attack.  The chances are good that you will not reach the hospital and, to make things worse, you might kill someone else.

The truth is that nearly everyone spends at least some time alone.  As we get older, many people live alone and, in a health emergency, this can be dangerous.  Some people wear an emergency pendant which puts them in contact with emergency personnel, neighbors or relatives with the push of a button.  Other people keep their cell phone in their pocket at all times.  Those are both excellent ideas.

Every 60 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies of a heart attack.  What should you do if you are alone and suspect that you are having a heart attack? How can you tell?  These are important questions to ask, because 40 percent of heart attack victims never make it to the hospital. 

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Heart attack symptoms can be wide-ranging and vague. Below you will find common and uncommon symptoms.  If you are in extreme discomfort or you are suffering from several of these symptoms, you should suspect a heart attack:

Chest pain (although 1/3 of patients do NOT have chest pain)
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, the shoulders, the neck, or the stomach (above the belly button)
Shortness of breath
Nausea and vomiting

The older you are, the more likely you are not to have chest pain, but have atypical symptoms, instead.  Some of the atypical symptoms are:

Labored breathing
Vague chest pressure

You may feel unwell for days or even weeks before experiencing the heart attack. 

Self Help Tips for Heart Attack Victims

If you experience the above symptoms and you are alone, here are a list of the steps you should take to save yourself.

* Call 911 - It is important to get to the hospital within an hour.
* While you are waiting for an ambulance, chew and swallow a regular, uncoated 325 mg. aspirin.
*  Unlock your doors so emergency personnel can get inside, in case you cannot open the door later.
*  Sit down, but do not lie down; try to rest and relax while you wait.
*  Call a neighbor, friend or relative and stay on the phone with them until help arrives. If they are close, ask them to come over and wait with you.
*  Do NOT drive yourself to the hospital or have someone else drive you; ambulances have defibrillators and clot-busting medications.  They will also be able to get help for you more quickly, once you reach the hospital.
*  When the EMTs arrive, be ready to tell them what medications you are using and explain exactly what you are feeling.
*  Be assertive.  If you seem shy or reticent, studies show that you may wait longer to receive treatment.  Speak up.  Even if it turns out that you were not having a heart attack, but some other health problem instead, it is important to get checked out as soon as possible.

Want to learn more about common health issues as you age?  Use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

When Will You Have Your Heart Attack?

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the United States, despite gains that have been made in fighting this disease over the past few decades.    Even though the number of deaths from heart disease have been cut in half since 1960, about 30% of Americans will still die as a result of cardiovascular disease.  According to Harvard Health, at least one-half of all heart disease deaths could be prevented, if people would control the risk factors that are modifiable: smoking, obesity, diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol.  In some cases, you may also have risk factors that are much harder or impossible to control:  your age, genes, and air pollution in your area, for example.

Since so many of us are likely to suffer from heart disease as we age, we need to know when we are most likely to have a heart attack.  In that way, we can be more vigilant about watching for symptoms in ourselves and our loved ones.

What are Common Heart Attack Symptoms?

Before we learn the times when we are most likely to have a heart attack, we need to know what symptoms we should watch for.  Briefly, they are:  

Unusual indigestion or nausea
Chest pain
Pain in the arm, back, shoulders or jaw
Unexplained sweating
Shortness of breath
Light headedness or dizziness
Irregular heartbeat or an intense heartbeat
A feeling of anxiety or impending doom

When Do Heart Attacks Happen?

If you, your spouse or your parents are experiencing any of the events listed below, you need to be aware that there are certain times when a person is most likely to experience a heart attack.  They are not the only times when you could have a heart attack, but you need to be especially aware if any of these things are going on in your life. There are six types of situations when researchers have noticed clusters of heart events:

The death of someone close to you - The heightened risk is strongest during the first week of grief; however, according to Swedish researchers, the elevated risk can actually last for several years!  If you are grieving the loss of someone you cared about, pay extra attention if you also seem to be experiencing any of the signs of a heart attack.

Catching the Flu - For the next three days after developing the flu, you are four times more likely to have a heart attack.  Be sure to contact your doctor if you are feeling exceptionally ill following the flu.

Experiencing a natural disaster - Isn't it awful enough to have to go through a natural disaster?  To make matters worse, survivors are three times as likely to have a heart attack over the following three weeks.

An exciting sporting event - We have all seen the movies in which someone gets so excited about a special event that they have a heart attack.  This is not so far-fetched.  Heart attack risk goes up for sports fans who get particularly emotional about their favorite sporting events.

Mondays - Yes, the first day we go back to work after being off for a few days can make us more prone to a heart attack.  Of course, we all have to go back to work sooner or later, so the best way to lesson your risk of a heart attack on Mondays is to try to start the week off as calmly as possible ... with yoga, a walk or meditation.

Shoveling snow - This is a chore that should probably be left to people who are young, healthy and in good physical shape.  The combination of cold weather and hard labor can make people more prone to a heart attack.  Take it easy.  It isn't worth the risk.

When Are You Most Like to Die of a Heart Attack?

Above you learned about the times when you are most likely to have a heart attack.  However, do you know there are certain times when you are more likely to actually die of a heart attack?  What are those days and why are they more lethal than others?

December 25, December 26 and New Year's Day are the days when you are most likely to die of a heart attack.  The cardiac event may have been triggered by drinking too much, cold weather, stress over money spent on gifts, or difficulty coping with family issues during the holidays.

Why are people more likely to actually die when a heart attack occurs on those days?

*  After over-eating a large holiday meal, the patient may mistake a heart attack for indigestion.

*  Some people may not want to disrupt the holiday festivities with a trip to the hospital, especially if they think it is just indigestion.  They don't want to interrupt the fun their family members are having.

*  By the time the patient wakes up the next day and realizes they still feel bad, it could be too late.  Patients should not wait more than 12 hours after the onset of symptoms before they seek treatment.

For the same reasons that people die on December 25, December 26 and New Year's Day,  people can sometimes be more prone to death during Hanukkah, while enjoying birthday celebrations or other special days.

If you are looking for more health and retirement information, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of additional, helpful articles.

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"The Most Dangerous Times for Your Heart," Reader's Digest Magazine, October 2014

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Would You Recognize a Heart Attack?

When my mother was 65, only one year older than I am now, she had a massive heart attack, followed by triple by-pass surgery the next morning.  Until the heart attack hit her, she thought she was only feeling a little uncomfortable because of the heat that day.  She and my Dad were in the process of cleaning out my grandmother's house after my grandmother had moved to assisted living.  They spent the day cleaning and packing up granny's belongings.  It was a hot summer day and my parents were carrying things in and out of the house, so the fact that my mother was perspiring heavily and feeling a little weak did not alarm her ... until she collapsed.

Symptoms of Heart Attacks 

We are all accustomed to the movie version of heart attacks in which a man puts his hands to his chest and collapses.  However, while this dramatic event will sometimes occur, it is not the first or most likely sign that you may be having a heart attack.  Listed below are the symptoms that both men and women should be concerned about:

Excessive perspiration, including a red face
Shortness of breath when you have not been exerting yourself
A heavy feeling in the chest or back
Achy, flu-like symptoms
Pain in the jaw, neck, back, or chest that doesn't go away
Extreme and sudden weakness or fatigue

All of these symptoms are especially alarming if they come on quickly and they are not relieved when you sit or lie down.   However, if you are experiencing these symptoms and cannot figure out why, you need to seriously consider the possibility that you are having a heart attack.

As you'll see in the comment section below, Domestic Diva said, "Your warning symptoms should be taken seriously. I think one of the reactions you'll find experienced by many heart attack survivors is that what they felt was somehow different. It wasn't quite like indigestion they've had before, or a flu they've suffered in the past. If you've lived to your 60s and experience a discomfort you've never had in all those years, it's worth getting checked out."  I moved her comment up here because I thought her words were something everyone should read.

Heart Disease Does Not Discriminate

When you read the list of symptoms above, many of them can also indicate very common illnesses, such as the flu, a strained muscle, or heat exhaustion.  Because many heart attack symptoms are vague, it is no wonder that my mother thought she was simply suffering from the effects of the heat.  Although she was a smoker, she was not over-weight and she had no history of heart disease.  She had no idea that she was in the process of having a heart attack until she collapsed and woke up in the hospital.

Many people still think of heart disease as an illness that primarily kills men.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  Women are actually about 15% more likely to have a heart attack than men, and they have double the chance of having a heart attack within six years of the first one.

Everyone should know that heart attacks kill women as well as men.  In addition, women (and their family members) need to know that women, in particular, can have a heart attack and never experience any chest pain!  About one out of three women will die of heart disease.  About two-thirds of them will have no prior symptoms. 

Our family was fortunate.  My mother is still alive at age 81, sixteen years after her heart attack and open heart surgery.  She has gone on to live an active lifestyle and, until recently, played golf on a regular basis. While she is suffering from other age-related health problems today, I'm pleased that she was able to survive her heart attack sixteen years ago.

For more information about this killer disease, go to the website of The American Heart Association.

If you are nearing retirement age and want more information about how to have a higher quality of life during your retirement years, please check out the index articles below.  They contain links to a number of helpful articles on a variety of topics.

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

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