February is designated by the American Heart Association as Heart Month, a time to raise awareness of heart disease and further education of the signs, symptoms, and ways to prevent this leading cause of death for Americans.
At Piedmont Home Care, we strive to do our part to raise awareness and improve the community’s understanding of important medical issues. This month, in honor of Heart Month, we’re focusing on education around the symptoms of heart attack.
Most people assume a heart attack happens like we see portrayed by Hollywood, with someone grasping their chest in sudden, acute pain. While that is the case for some heart attacks, the symptoms can often be much more subtle.
Common Signs of a Heart Attack
Chest pain. The most common signal of a heart attack is discomfort in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. It could feel like a heavy pressure sitting on your chest, or it could be just like an uncomfortable squeeze.
Arm pain. Often pain in the left arm will accompany the chest pain with a heart attack. You might also have discomfort in both arms, as well as the back, neck, or stomach.
Shortness of breath and cold sweats. These symptoms could also accompany a heart attack, and can occur with our without chest pain.
The Difference for Women
It’s important to note that heart attacks often present differently in men than in women. Most women typically don’t report chest pain, but instead are more likely to experience the other symptoms of heart attack, including:
· Nausea and stomach pain
· Anxiety, without an apparent cause
· Shortness of breath and cold sweats
· Extreme fatigue
· Pain in the arms, legs and jaw (men typically don’t experience jaw pain)
· Heart palpitations
Women also report having these symptoms up to a month leading up to a heart attack. It is easy to dismiss the stomach pain as indigestion, fatigue as a result of taking care of daily life activities, and anxiety as something to do with life experience rather than a heart attack. That’s why it’s important that women be made aware that all of these symptoms could be related to a heart attack, and get medical attention to determine the cause. Even when symptoms are subtle, consequences can be deadly.
If you think you are experiencing a heart attack, call 9-1-1 and seek help right away.
Preventing Heart Disease
The good news is that heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack, is preventable. There are three main lifestyle improvements necessary for better heart health.
Quit Smoking. People who smoke are two to four times more likely to have heart disease than those who don’t smoke. But the benefits to your health can be found immediately after quitting the habit.
Exercise regularly. Getting active for at least 30 minutes a day can go far in improving your cardiovascular system’s health and strength.
Eat a heart-healthy diet. Try to stay within the FDA recommendations of less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, and eat meals comprised of plenty of vegetables and whole grains.
If you or someone you love is suffering from heart disease, our knowledgeable staff at Piedmont Home Care can help. Our employees are trained to understand proper nutrition and can help you plan healthy meals and become more active in a way fitting for your personal fitness level.