Signs of a Heart Attack

Signs of a Heart Attack

February is Heart Health Awareness Month. Read below to learn how heart attacks can present themselves, and the different warning signs that can manifest in men and women.

What Causes Heart Attacks?

Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is the main cause for heart attacks. This disease creates a build-up of a wax-like substance called plaque that can block blood flow into your heart. 

Plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries, which are the main method of transportation for the blood pumping into your heart and bringing oxygen. 

This buildup of plaque can grow over several years. As a result, once the buildup becomes large enough, it can cause an artery to break open. The clot that forms after an artery bursts is what creates the blockage that eventually prevents blood and oxygen from flowing into your heart muscles. 

Who Is At Risk Of A Heart Attack?

Several factors can increase your risk of suffering a heart attack, including:

  • Smoking. Chemicals and long-term secondhand exposure from smoking can severely damage the arteries used to pump blood and oxygen to your heart. 
  • Having certain health issues like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.  
  • Being overweight or obese.  
  • Age. For men, being over the age of 45 increases the risk of heart disease. Women over 55 years are also at an increased risk of heart disease.  
  • Having a family history of heart disease.  

 Signs Of A Heart Attack

Common signs of heart attack include: 

  • Chest pain that lasts longer than a few minutes or leaves just to come back again.
  • Discomfort in your upper body, such as your arms, back, jaw and above your belly button. 
  • Shortness of breath that occurs when you are resting or doing very little activity. 

These signs are most common for both men and women, but women in particular ignore heart attack symptoms or experience milder signs than men. Some symptoms that women are more likely to experience than men are shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, pain in their back or jaw. 

These signs and symptoms can present themselves obviously, as the old saying of an “elephant sitting on your chest.” They can also be as subtle as feeling like you’re being squeezed. 

Heart attacks can be deadly, and they need immediate medical attention. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or think you’re high-risk for heart disease, contact us at CCMH to set up an appointment with our Heart and Vascular Center at 580.250.4278. 


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American Heart Association.