Early Detection Symptoms of Heart Attack, Diagnosis and Tests
Heart diseases claim more lives every year than any other disease. Indeed, heart attack and stroke are the world’s biggest killers. A heart attack can happen to anyone – irrespective of age – at anytime. Sedentary lifestyles and unwise eating habits have considerably increased the chances of anyone ‘catching’ a heart attack. It is therefore important to equip ourselves with at least a preliminary knowledge of what early detection symptoms of a heart attack can look like, so that we are prepared to act swiftly if and when it strikes.
What is a Heart Attack?
First, the basics. Let us understand what happens during a heart attack.
Our coronary arteries supply blood (that is rich in oxygen) to the heart. Whenever there is an excessive build-up of fat, calcium, proteins or inflammatory cells along the inner walls of the artery, it becomes narrow. Sometimes, this build-up (ie, the deposition, which is also called plaque) can burst and lead to clotting of the blood. In either case – build up or clot – the flow of blood through the artery becomes restricted, starving the heart of its most important nutrient : Oxygen. This instantly triggers a permanent damage – even death – to the heart muscle cells. This condition is commonly called a ‘Heart Attack’.
In less common instances, a spasm of the coronary artery – reducing supply of blood to the heart – can lead to a heart attack as well.
A heart attack is also known by various technical terms such as cardiac infarction,myocardial infarction and coronary thrombosis. An infarction refers to a condition where blood supply to an area is cut off, causing the living tissue in that part of the body to die.
It is important not to confuse a heart attack with a cardiac arrest. A heart attack is the blockage of an artery that reaches the heart, while a cardiac arrest happens when the heart ceases to function (thereby causing its pumping motion – and, by extension, blood circulation to various parts of the body – to come to a halt). A cardiac arrest can sometimes be a result of a heart attack.
How much damage an attack has caused to the heart will vary – it usually depends on the size of the area that is ‘serviced’ by the artery (which is now blocked). The speed of treatment – ie, the time elapsed between attack and treatment – also influences that volume of damage.
What are the early detection symptoms of Heart Attack?
This can arrive in different forms for different people. It is essentially a feeling of tightness or pain in the chest. It can feel as if a huge weight has been kept on your chest, or can be a burning and pinching sensation. It can happen when you are active or when you are at rest, and usually lasts longer than a few minutes. It is important to note that a heart attack can also happen without pain, and this usually happens more with women.
Nausea & Heartburn
Many people have reported symptoms of nausea, heartburn, indigestion and pain in the stomach (or an upward pain towards the chest region) before suffering a heart attack. Of course, these symptoms can also occur without being accompanied by a heart attack.
Pain in the Arm
A classic symptom of a heart attack is a pain that almost always begins in the chest and moves outward, flowing down the left side of the body – often along the arm. Yes, it can also just be simply that: An arm pain.
A feeling of dizziness, or lightness in the head, can happen due to many reasons – such as lack of food or standing up too fast – and not because a heart attack is on its way. However, if you suddenly feel faint or out-of-balance in the head – and also feel a discomfort (such as a shortness of breath) in the chest at the same time, it’s time to get alert.
Pain in the Throat
There can be many reasons to feel pain in your throat – such as common cold, for instance – and most of them will have nothing to do with the heart. If, however, there is a pain in the centre of the chest that shoots straight into your jaw or throat, it could well be the pre-warning signal of a heart attack.
Exhaustion & Fatigue
If you are falling short of breath, experiencing extreme weakness or getting fatigued fast after normal, ‘everyday’ activities – such as climbing the stairs or carrying things about the house – which you have never felt before, it would be the symptom of a heart attack. However, there could be other reasons for this state of exhaustion as well.
Snoring is normal for a lot of us. However, in the case of a specific condition called Sleep Apnea, snoring can sound like choking or gasping, and one can even stop breathing for a few moments. When Sleep Apnea happens several times during sleep, it puts extra pressure on the heart. This can – in certain cases – eventually lead to a heart attack.
If you break out in a cold sweat for no apparent or clear reason, it could be connected to a heart attack at some level. If, along with the cold sweat, you also experience any of the other symptoms discussed above, it can be a cause for serious concern.
Normally, coughing – even if intense – will not be a symptom of a heart attack. However, if you are already suffering from a heart condition, or are at risk, a consistent cough can indicate something more serious. If the cough releases mucus that’s pink or white in colour, it could signal an oncoming failure of the heart.
If one finds that the legs, ankles and feet are swelling up gradually, it usually signifies that that heart is not pumping blood efficiently (which happens during a heart attack), causing the blood to ‘back up’ in the vein and cause the bloating. That apart, kidneys find it harder to remove extra water from the body during a heart failure, and that can show up as bloating in the leg region as well.
If the heart beat shows sign of irregularity, if you feel it skipping (like the sensation you feel when you are nervous), or if you feel that your heart is beating ‘out of rhythm’ – it may be reason to become alert, because a heart attack may be approaching. Of course, this can often have nothing to do with a heart attack, too.
The immediate thing to do when you (or someone you know, or is near you) experience any of these early detection symptoms of a heart attack – is to ask for professional help.
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Heart Attack Diagnosis and Tests
Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG is a quick, painless and harmless procedure that checks how your heart is functioning by measuring the electrical activity of the heart.
Blood Tests: Certain heart proteins slowly leak into your blood after heart damage from a heart attack. doctor may take the blood test sample to identify these enzymes.
Cardiac CT or MRI: CT or MRI scan for Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring, produce images of the coronary arteries to determine if they are blocked or narrowed by the buildup of plaque. | Read More
Chest X-Ray: It can help spot abnormalities or diseases of the airways, blood vessels, bones, heart, and lungs. | Read More
Echocardiogram: Echocardiography is a test that uses sound waves to produce live images of your heart. The image is an echocardiogram. This test allows your doctor to monitor how your heart and its valves are functioning. It is key in determining the health of the heart muscle, especially after a heart attack. | Read More
Coronary Catheterization (Angiogram): Coronary angiography is a test used to find out how much narrowing there is in your arteries. | Read More
Exercise Stress Test: A cardiac stress test is a cardiological test that measures the heart’s ability to respond to external stress in a controlled clinical environment. | Read More
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): An ECG is a quick, painless and harmless procedure that checks how your heart is functioning by measuring the electrical activity of the heart. | Read More
Stress Test: A cardiac stress test is a cardiological test that measures the heart’s ability to respond to external stress in a controlled clinical environment. | Read More
Diagnostics Tests And Path Lab facilities Available At House of Diagnostics (HOD).