Would You Recognize When You’re Having A Heart Attack?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 70 percent of people surveyed do not know the symptoms of a heart attack. One reason is that the symptoms can look like some other medical condition. If the pain goes away, a person may just ignore the situation, unaware that they are putting themselves at risk of another heart attack.

Here is what you should know about heart attacks in case you find yourself with severe chest pain one day:

What Does "Heart Attack" Mean?

Nothing is really "attacking" your heart, although it may feel like it. Your heart is a muscle and, like the other muscles in your body, it needs a steady supply of blood to provide it with oxygen and nutrients. Special blood vessels, called the coronary arteries, provide the heart muscle with blood.

People with high cholesterol, diabetes and other diseases, experience a buildup of fatty deposits on the blood vessel walls. This buildup reduces the amount of blood pumped through those vessel. Sometimes, a blood vessel will become completely blocked with this material. A cardiologist can do tests to determine how vulnerable you are to a heart attack based on the health of your coronary arteries.

If one or more of your coronary arteries become partially blocked, the heart muscle will become starved of oxygen. When this happens, a heart attack is imminent.

Typical Signs of a heart Attack

There are a number of signs that are common to people having a heart attack:

  • Feeling of pressure in the chest - Some people say it feels like someone is standing on their chest.
  • Pain that starts in the chest and radiates outward - The pain is dull but intense. It often is felt radiating from the chest into the back, neck and left arm.
  • Pain that ebbs and flows - The chest pain often worsens, then lightens up and continues this cycle of intense then mild pain.

What Causes a Specific Heart Attack?

If you have one of the conditions that narrows the coronary arteries, you may notice nothing when resting or working at a desk. When you increase your physical activity, the heart muscle works harder. It sends your body the signal that it needs more blood and oxygen. If the narrow coronary arteries can't provide the additional blood, the heart muscle begins to suffer from lack of oxygen. The painful heart attack begins to tell you there is a problem.

What to Do If You Think You Have a Heart Attack

The first thing to do when having chest pains is to dial 911. It may not be a heart attack, but don't take that chance. The next thing to do to help yourself is to relax.

This will be hard to think about doing when you're having severe chest pains. But, knowing that your heart is complaining about not having enough blood, if you can relax and calm yourself down, your heart rate will go down and it will need less blood. Lie down on the floor. Put your feet up on something, if you can. Take slow deep breaths. The pain will subside if you reduce your heart rate enough to not need the additional oxygen.

Knowing the signs of a heart attack is good in case you or another person close to you starts to have chest pain. While still not something you want to have happen, it may be an indication of a health problem you weren't aware of. Getting a cardiology examination and starting treatment for what they find will prevent future chest pain.

To learn more, contact professionals for additional reading and help.