Heart Attack: Warning Signs and Tips on Prevention
What is a heart attack?
Heart attacks are also often caused by a blood clot that forms in a coronary artery, blocking blood flow. Clots are especially likely to form where plaques become cracked or damaged in any way.
How do I know if I'm having a heart attack?
- Feel a pressure or crushing pain in your chest, sometimes with sweating, dizziness, nausea or vomiting
- Feel pain that extends from your chest into the jaw, left arm or left shoulder
- Feel tightness in your chest
- Have shortness of breath for more than a couple of seconds
- Feel weak, lightheaded or faint
- Have sudden overwhelming fatigue
What should I do if I think I am having a heart attack?
If you can, go to a hospital with advanced care facilities for people with heart attacks. In these medical centers, the latest heart attack technology is available 24 hours a day. How well you survive a heart attack depends on how quickly you get treatment, how much damage there is to the heart, and where that damage is.
Risk factors for a heart attack
- Age--Risk increases for men older than 45 years and for women older than 55 years (or after menopause). About 83% of people who die from heart disease are 65 years of age or older.
- High cholesterol level
- High blood pressure
- Family history of heart attack
- Race--African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans and native Hawaiians are at greater risk.
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Lack of exercise
- Sex (Gender)--More men have heart attacks, although heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women.
How can I avoid having a heart attack?
- Quit smoking. Your doctor can help you. (If you don't smoke, don't start!)
- Eat a healthy diet. Cut back on foods high in saturated fat and sodium (salt) to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. A Mediterranean diet is also a very healthy choice. Ask your doctor about how to improve your diet.
- Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
- Exercise. It may sound hard if you haven't exercised for a while, but try to work up to 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise (that raises your heart rate) 4 to 6 times a week.
- Lose weight if you're overweight. Your doctor can advise you about the best ways to lose weight.
- Control your blood pressure if you have hypertension.
More InformationHeart Disorders & Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Angina and Heart Disease
- Heart Failure
- Peripheral Arterial Disease and Claudication
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Raynaud's Disease
- Small Vessel Disease
- Acute Coronary Syndrome
- Bacterial Endocarditis
- Heart Palpitations
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Sick Sinus Syndrome
- Mitral Valve Prolapse
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome
- Varicose Veins
SourceWritten by familydoctor.org editorial staff.
American Academy of Family Physicians