80% of people report same 5 symptoms a month before a heart attack

Dr Nighat reveals heart attacks symptoms in women

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Heart attacks are commonly thought to strike out of the blue but this is rarely the case. Barring a complication you didn’t know about, there are many red flags that can alert you along the way. This does not only apply to poor lifestyle decisions. Symptoms can also strike ahead of time.

Research presented at an American Heart Association annual meeting in Dallas provides an insight into the common symptoms that precede a heart attack in men.

The study highlighted common symptoms that preceded heart attacks in 567 men aged 35 to 65 years, based on retrospective chart review.

Almost 80 percent of the specified symptoms occurred between four weeks and one hour before the sudden cardiac arrest.

Of those who had symptoms, 56 percent had chest pain; 13 percent, shortness of breath; four percent, dizziness, fainting or heart palpitations.

The research also revealed 53 percent had symptoms prior to the cardiac arrest.

Study limitations

An accompanying editorial published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine highlights some important limitations about how the study is being interpreted.

News reports of the findings suggest that any middle-aged man with chest pain or shortness of breath may be having a heart attack.

Thus, while the overall message from the investigators (seek medical care if you [middle-aged man] are having new or troubling symptoms) may have been useful, the news reports of the study were plagued by the lack of a denominator, indicating the prevalence of these symptoms amongst the population of interest, the editorial notes.

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“For instance, in a cohort of one million middle-aged men, how many will have chest pain or shortness of breath in a month? Even if 50,000 men developed those vague symptoms, how many would subsequently have a heart attack?”

Certainly, not all 50,000, as some reports imply, says the editorial.

Nonetheless, the findings suggest that it’s vital to be on guard for any changes, however subtle.

How to respond

It’s vital that you respond in a timely manner to any symptoms that resemble a heart attack.

That’s because a swift response minimises the extent of the damage inflicted on the heart muscle.

According to the NHS, the first step is to call 999 – the faster you act, the better your chances.

“While waiting for an ambulance, it may help to chew and then swallow a tablet of aspirin (ideally 300mg), as long as the person having a heart attack is not allergic to aspirin.”

Aspirin helps to thin the blood and improves blood flow to the heart.

“In hospital, treatment for a heart attack depends on how serious it is,” explains the NHS.

The two main treatments are:

  • Using medicines to dissolve blood clots
  • Surgery to help restore blood to the heart.

Important reminder

The British Heart Foundation says: “People often dismiss that they’re having a heart attack and will delay seeking medical attention.

“If you’re with someone who’s experiencing heart attack symptoms but they’re putting off or refusing to call an ambulance, it’s really important that you call one for them.”

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