Know the Signs: Heart Attacks

Did you know heart attacks are more common in December and January than in other months? A multitude of factors may contribute to this pattern, one being the cold temperatures, which cause blood vessels to constrict and blood pressure to rise, ultimately putting more strain on the heart. Excessive indulgence (such as in salt, fat, and alcohol), emotional stress, and the tendency to put off seeking medical treatment during the holidays may also play a role. This means that now is the perfect time to learn (or brush up on) the most common signs of a heart attack, so that if you find yourself or a loved one in this situation, you can act quickly and minimize the damage done to the heart.

You’re likely familiar with the classic heart attack symptom, severe chest pain (often compared to the feeling that an elephant is sitting on your chest), but this isn’t the only symptom you should be aware of, especially if you’re a woman. Although both men and women can experience this kind of pressure on their chest, women are more likely to have heart attacks and not experience this tell-tale symptom. For this reason, you should know the other symptoms of heart attacks in women:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, and/or nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances and/or unusual fatigue
  • Gas-like pain or discomfort in the stomach
  • Pain in the jaw
  • Pain in the upper back, shoulders, or one or both arms

For men, too, there are other symptoms you should know to look out for in addition to the typical chest pain and pressure:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Cold sweat
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper body (one or both arms, left shoulder, back, neck, or jaw)
  • Gas-like pain or discomfort in the stomach
  • Rapid heartbeat

If you suspect you or a loved one may be having a heart attack, don’t hesitate to seek help. The first thing you should do is call 911 right away. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, chew a normal dose of aspirin— this will help slow the blood clotting. Try to stay calm and sit or lie down near the door.

Heart attacks can be scary, but by learning about the symptoms now, you’re preparing yourself to take swift action if the need ever arises. Kudos for prioritizing your health, and as always, stay healthy and stay safe!

–The Wellness and Stress Clinic Team

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