Contrary to popular opinion, heart attacks are not usually heralded by obvious or classic signs — such as the infamous “Hollywood” heart attack, in which a person clutches at his or her heart dramatically, doubled over with severe chest pain.
In fact, about 25% of all heart attacks occur “silently,” meaning there are no clear or recognizable symptoms. Unfortunately, these silent heart attacks are frequently fatal, particularly because so many people delay or fail to seek medical treatment.
Dr. Chauncey Crandall, one of America’s leading cardiologists, has spent decades busily working to prevent, minimize, and reverse heart disease. Over this time, Dr. Crandall has come to recognize that the heart does usually warn people of a potential heart attack minutes, days, or even weeks before the event.
Most people believe that swelling of the feet or ankles has to do with standing or sitting too much, but heart failure can also cause fluid to accumulate in the body. This can cause swelling in the legs or abdomen, as well as the feet and ankles. Some people begin to retain so much fluid that that they find they suddenly gain weight (sometimes as much as 10 pounds!). When this happens, many people lose their appetite as well.
Many survivors state that they had feelings of impending doom or anxiety attacks just before their heart attacks happened. Although many people with anxiety attacks believe that they are having a heart attack, it is better to be safe than sorry. Call 911.
PAIN IN OTHER PARTS OF THE BODY
For many heart attack victims, the pain begins in the chest, and then spreads to the shoulders, arms, elbows, neck, jaw, back, and even abdomen. However, sometimes there is no actual chest pain — only pain in some of these other body parts. Pain between the shoulder blades or pain in one or both arms is especially common. This pain can come and go, so don’t let it fool you.
Some people who are having heart failure will cough up bloody phlegm, but others simply have a nagging or wheezing cough that is sometimes a symptom of heart failure. This is a result of fluid build-up in the lungs. It is especially important that you pay attention to this symptom if you are having any of the other symptoms listed here as well.
Above are some of the hidden signs that people most likely do not correlate to a heart attack; below, are some of the more common or traditional signs you should also be aware of.
- Chest discomfort.
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
Don’t try to tough out the symptoms or ignore them, hoping that they will go away. If your symptoms last more than five or 10 minutes, call 911 or have someone drive you to your local hospital emergency room. You can also chew and swallow an aspirin, unless you are allergic to them.