Heart attack symptoms: What is a heart attack??
Your heart pumps blood to your whole body. Symptoms of heart attack happen when your heart itself does not get enough blood. How can the heart not get enough blood when it is the main supplier of blood?
Here is a very detailed description of heart attack events inside your arteries.
This is a very important concept you need to grasp if you truly want to understand heart attack symptoms. Your heart pumps blood to the whole body but it also needs to pump blood to its own wall. Pumping blood to the whole body requires a lot of force. Your heart has strong muscles to generate this force. These muscles need a lot of blood supply to be able to generate that force. Special arteries come out of your heart to supply blood to its own muscular walls. These arteries are called coronary arteries. When these arteries get blocked, you get a heart attack. Loss of blood supply to your hard working heart muscles result in heart attack symptoms. Another name for a heart attack is Myocardial Infarction. It literally means death of heart muscles.
When you have symptoms of heart attack, it is your heart telling you that heart muscles are not getting enough blood.
Our media and movies portray heart attack as a dramatic event where you get sudden chest pain, clutch your heart and collapse to the ground. That is not how most people get heart attack symptoms in real life. In most heart attacks, your heart still keeps beating, it continues to pump blood to the rest of your body and you do not collapse. It is your heart muscles that do not get blood supply when you suffer a heart attack. Heart damage after a heart attack may continue for hours, days or even weeks.
Chest pain: the most important symptom of a heart attack
Anytime you have unexplained pain in your chest, you need to think about possible heart attack. It is not a good idea to dismiss any episode of chest pain as “probably not a heart attack” just because it does not fit the description of a typical heart attack symptom. When reading any heart attack pain description, you need to aware that you will probably not have the same symptom that someone else had.
When there is a sudden interruption in the flow of blood to your heart muscles, they suffer immediate changes. These muscle require a lot of oxygen and nutrients to work. When the supply of oxygen and nutrition is interrupted, they send out stress signals. This is called Myocardial Ischemia. Your brain analyzes these signals and you feel chest pain.
You do not necessarily feel the chest pain where your heart is located. Unlike your skin or your arm muscle, your heart does not directly feel pain or pressure. When your heart muscles send out the stress signal, your brain cannot pinpoint the location of the pain. Chest pain from heart attack is usually poorly localized and is usually felt somewhere in the mid front chest area. It usually feels like pressure, like someone sitting on your chest. It is usually not a very sharp pain. It may radiate to your jaw, shoulder or your neck. There is no way to predict how exactly you feel your chest pain when you have a heart attack.
Do not dismiss your chest pain if it does not fit this general description. The way your brain interprets stress signal from your oxygen deprived heart muscle is your unique experience.
The only one thing predictable with heart attack symptoms is that they are always associated with some degree of bodily stress. When your heart muscle does not get enough oxygen, your brain feels the stress. In fact, this stress can also be recognized by someone close to you. When you have heart attack symptoms, people close to you will recognize that you look different than usual, you look more stressed out. If you feel a sudden overwhelming sense of bodily distress, you need to think about possible heart attack. If you have any kind of chest pain associated this feeling of bodily distress, you need to call 911 right away.
Heart attack symptoms other than chest pain
Here is a list of heart attack symptoms other than chest pain. You need to understand that this list only helps you recognize a pattern of symptoms associated with heart attacks. This is, in no way, a list of all possible heart attack symptoms. It is not possible to list all heart attack symptoms because individual symptoms can vary significantly.
- squeezing sensation in your chest
- heartburn that would not go away
- feel like indigestion
- severe nausea
- Jaw pain
- sudden palpitations
- dull chest pressure
- achy feeling in the chest
- feel like sore chest muscles
- pain in between the shoulder blades
- pain in your upper back
- pain in the left arm
- pain in the right arm
- fullness and tightening of throat
- numbness and heaviness of shoulder
- choking sensation
- feel like a lump inside the chest
- sudden shortness of breath
- feel like fire burning inside the chest
- stuttering chest discomfort
- impending sense of doom
- sudden incredible fatigue
- sudden profuse sweating
Chest pain from a heart attack may not feel like pain at all. It may simply feel like a squeezing sensation in your chest. Some people describe it as a feeling that someone is gripping your heart and twisting it from inside.
Heartburn like sensation can also be a symptom of possible heart attack. If you have a new unexplained heartburn that feels different from your usual heartburn, you need to think about possible heart attack. Heart attack symptoms may also simply present as indigestion. If you have a new or unusual indigestion type feeling along with other signs of bodily distress, you need to think of it as a possible heart attack symptom. Similarly sudden onset strong nausea or sick stomach may represent a heart attack symptom in the right setting.
Sometimes, you may feel the distress signal from your heart muscle as palpitation. You may feel like your heart is jumping inside your heart. You may feel each and every beat of your heart. If you have new and unusual palpitation associated with bodily distress, you need to think about possible heart attack.
A dull pressure-like sensation in your chest without any pain is another heart attack symptom that may go unrecognized. You may also feel vague uneasiness or achy feeling in your chest instead of chest pain. If you have a history of asthma, the chest tightness of your heart attack symptom may feel similar to the tightness you have with asthma attack. Chest discomfort from a heart attack may also feel like sore chest muscles. It may feel similar to how you feel after a vigorous exercise that involves your chest muscles. Dumbbell press, bench press and chest push-ups are the examples of exercises that involve your chest muscles. When you over-indulge yourself in these types of exercises, you feel a certain soreness in your chest muscles. If you feel a similar soreness in your chest muscles that came out of nowhere, you need to think about possible heart attack.
Chest pain is an important symptom of heart attack but pain from heart attack may not be confined to your chest. When you have a heart attack, your chest pain may radiate to other parts of your body. Left arm, left shoulder, neck and jaw are the most common body parts where chest pain from a heart attack radiates to. However, chest pain from heart attack may also radiate to right arm, right shoulder, in between your shoulder blades or even to your upper back. It is also important to note that pain from heart attack may only be felt at the radiation sites without involving your chest. In other words, pain in your left arm, left shoulder, neck, jaw, right arm, in between your shoulder blades or your upper back could be a possible symptom of heart attack.
You need to be aware that heart attack symptoms in your shoulder or your shoulder blades may not feel like pain at all. You may simply feel numbness or heaviness in your shoulder blades. Heart attack symptom may involve just one shoulder or you could feel it in both your shoulders at the same time. If you suddenly feel like you are carrying a lot of weight in your shoulder/shoulders, you need to think about possible heart attack.
Your throat is another important body part where you may feel your heart attack symptoms. Apart from throat pain, you may only have fullness or tightening of your throat. Sometimes, your heart attack symptom could present as a choking sensation in your throat.
Sometimes, heart attack symptoms may present as unusual or weird sensation inside your chest. Some people feel like there is a new lump inside the chest that is growing in size as they speak. Some people literally feel like their chest is on fire. Some people feel a sudden warmth inside their chest. These types of unusual chest sensations may represent heart attack symptoms.
Occasionally, heart attack symptoms may not be localized to any particular part of your body. Sudden onset severe profuse sweating is an example of a non-localized heart attack symptom. Some people with heart attack symptoms simply describe it as “feeling very bad”. It may simply be a feeling of impending doom. They may simply feel very tired or fatigued. They may feel like life energy is being sucked out of their bodies. These kinds of heart attack symptoms may be very difficult to describe and may be dismissed as possible anxiety or paranoia.
What does a heart attack feel like?
The personal feeling associated with your symptoms is very important when you are worried about a possible heart attack. Your body has a unique way of warning you when something bad is happening inside. Do not discard how you feel just because your symptom is not listed as a possible heart attack symptom.
When your heart muscles do not get enough blood, you feel bad. You just need to listen to your body and recognize your unique signs of bodily stress. When you recognize bodily stress, you will be in a better position to identify a possible heart attack even when you do not have the typical heart attack symptoms. When you feel like you are in imminent danger, just call 911 and get emergent medical evaluation.
Pre- heart attack symptoms: Early warning signs of heart attack
It is important to know what pre-heart attack symptoms are. As I explained at the beginning of this article, heart attack symptoms occur when the supply of blood to your heart muscles is blocked. You can understand pre-heart attack as temporary shortage of blood to your heart muscles without a permanent blockage. You can have all the same heart attack symptoms during a pre-heart attack. However, the way you experience pre-heart attack symptoms is somewhat different from the way you experience actual heart attack symptoms.
During a pre-heart attack, your symptoms are usually provoked by increased demand on your heart muscles. You may have just enough blood flowing to your heart muscle at rest but when you exert yourself your heart needs to work harder. When your heart muscles try to pump extra blood, they are unable to get the extra blood they need to do the extra work and you go into a pre-heart attack stage. Pre-heart attack symptoms are usually provoked by mental or physical stress and they last a short time. Pre-heart attack symptoms go away as soon as the additional stress on heart muscles go away. If your pre-heart attack symptoms are produced by walking too fast, they go away as soon as you slow down or stop.
Just like heart attack symptoms, your pre-heart attack symptoms may or may not include chest pain. You may have any of the 23 heart attack symptoms listed above. They usually occur with a waxing and waning characteristic associated with exertion and rest. When your pre-heart attack symptoms start, it is hard to decide if it is a pre-heart attack or the beginning of an actual heart attack. That is why it is important to call 911 as soon as you recognize it. If your symptoms go away shortly after rest, you would still benefit from urgent evaluation in ER. If you heart attack symptoms continue, you will be really glad you called 911.
Heart attack symptoms: why call 911?
Heart attack symptoms happen when blood flow to your heart muscles is blocked. Without blood supply, your heart muscles start to die. Fortunately, there is a few hours window before your heart muscles get permanent damage after a heart attack. The chances of successfully restoring blood flow to your heart muscles increases with rapid ER evaluation. You will have the best chance of saving your heart muscles if you get the blood flow re-started within 90 minutes of your heart attack symptoms.
Can heart muscle damage be reversed with heart attack treatment in hospital?
Yes, it can be reversed if you get to the hospital as soon as possible.