Short stories, Travel and Health Information
Coronary heart disease (CHD) – principally because it is responsible for heart attacks – is the single leading cause of death in the modern world. Sadly, many people who have been diagnosed with heart disease do not know the warning signs of a heart attack.
Warning Signs of Heart Attacks
Recent research in Australia has shown that many deaths from coronary heart disease can be prevented if patients do not delay seeking treatment when they experience a heart attack. Analysis of a previous National Heart Foundation campaign to improve patient response times after a heart attack concluded that “experience is not a good teacher” – with the reasons commonly proffered by survivors for failing to act including the risk of embarrassment, not wanting to bother others, and fear of what may happen if they report symptoms.
Even those people with a history of coronary heart disease (CHD) who may have expreienced angina previously one would expect to know about the symptoms of a heart attack surprisingly appeared to not seek help promptly when they did experience these symptoms.
People Who Have Had a Heart Attack
Even though these people who already have experienced signs and symptoms of heart disease are at greater risk of a heart attack, it has been found that is no difference in awareness of heart attack warning signs between them and the general population.
Alarmingly, the study found that those with established CHD are also likely to delay calling for an ambulance. Since more than half of heart attack deaths occur before the patient reaches hospital, these findings are particulrly significant – since the death rate and ill health associated with heart attacks in people with CHD could be substantially reduced if they recognized and acted upon the warning signs quickly.
Among reasons proffered by those who suffered a heart attack for failing to seek prompt medical help were:
•tending to ignore their warning signs or waiting for them to go away
•not recognising their symptoms as warning signs of heart attack
•thinking their symptoms needed to be more severe before they should call an ambulance
•not wanting others to worry about them or not wanting to bother the ambulance service
Common Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
The symptoms of a heart attack can strike suddenly or may come on over several minutes and progressively get worse. They usually last for at least 10 minutes.
Usually a heart attack will be experienced as a crushing central chest pain that is brought on by exertion, cold or strong emotion. Patients who experience a heart attack may have just one of the following symptoms, or may have a combination of these:
1. Discomfort or pain in the centre of your chest. This type of pain can often feel like a kind of heaviness, a tightening sensation or can be described as “pressure in the middle of the chest.” A common description is “like an elephant sitting on my chest” or a “vice being tightened around my chest.” The discomfort may spread to different parts of the upper body.
2. Discomfort in the arms, shoulders, neck, jaw or back, where pain from the heart can radiate. This can occur even without the central chest pain. Common descriptions are “a choking feeling in the throat” or “the arms feel heavy or useless.”
3. Other symptoms include feeling short of breath, nauseous, having a cold sweat or feeling dizzy or light-headed.
Knowing the warning signs of a heart attack and acting quickly can reduce the damage to your heart muscle and increase your chance of survival.