Second, perhaps, only to the brain in terms of its importance to human health and well-being, the heart is a muscle that gets through a tremendous amount of work. The role it performs is so fundamental to our lives that, indeed, we frequently only recognize its importance when it is prevented from performing that role.
Looking after your heart is of course essential, and most of us know what to eat and how to exercise – and what not to do – to ensure that it performs at its best. What we may know a little less about is how the heart warns us when it’s not doing so well. We can all look at TV portrayals of heart problems, where characters clutch at their chest to mimic a heart attack, and assume we’d know if we were having problems. However, as we’ll see below, the truth is somewhat different.
Heart attacks feel different for women and men
It is possible that a heart attack could cause chest pains that lead you to grip at your front like on TV. However, it’s not at all inevitable, and chest discomfort may be completely absent from the picture. Nausea, dizziness and higher back pain are all possible symptoms, particularly if partnered by shortness of breath and dizziness. Chest pain is certainly a common symptom, but it’s usually not extreme – and, particularly in women, may be completely absent.
Pain that spreads is a potential tell-tale sign
While pain can be a primary symptom of serious heart issues, it is worth being aware of the kind of pain you might suffer. General chest pain is generally more likely to be a symptom of something like pericarditis, and is something that your family doctor can check out and treat. For potentially more serious issues, be aware of the potential for pain to radiate – either upwards to the throat and jaw, or laterally into (particularly) the left arm. If you experience chest pain that radiates in those ways, it is important to speak to a doctor.
You may experience a “pre”-heart attack
For many people who do suffer a heart attack, the symptoms listed above are often experienced in advance of the attack itself. It is important to speak to your doctor if you notice any of the above, and advising those who need to know that you have had these symptoms. Early warning has allowed many employers to make adjustments that can help their workers ease some of the stress and the demands of their work so as to avoid a problem deteriorating. If you have heart attack-like symptoms, don’t just carry on as normal – treat it as a warning.
Knowing what to look for – and what not to – with regard to a heart attack could be of vital importance. Keep track of any unusual symptoms and particularly combinations of problems that could point to future problems. As ever, when it comes to your health it is essential to focus on early detection and early treatment. This is the best way to keep larger problems at bay.