Heart attack symptoms: Upper body discomfort may mean your life is at risk

Otherwise known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack is the result of heart muscle cells dying due to a lack of oxygen. Once you’ve had one, the likelihood of it happening again increases – putting your life in danger. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH) raises awareness of the symptoms to look out for. Most commonly, this includes “upper body discomfort”, which may be felt in:

  • One or both arms
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Neck
  • Jaw
  • Upper part of the stomach (above the belly button)

This is usually accompanied by chest pain or discomfort in the centre left side of the chest area.

“The discomfort usually lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back,” said the NIH.

The sensation has been likened to: pressure, squeezing, fullness, heartburn or indigestion.

Depending on the individual circumstances, the pain may be mild or more severe in intensity.

Alongside these symptoms, one might suffer from shortness of breath – or it could be the only symptom that occurs.

Other warning signs of a heart attack might include:

  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Feeling unusually tired for no reason, sometimes for days
  • Nausea (feeling sick to the stomach) and vomiting
  • Light-headedness or sudden dizziness

As you can see, there’s a whole range of symptoms that may be caused by a heart attack.

The general motto is, the more signs and symptoms you have, the more likely it is you’re having a heart attack.

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At any point that you fear you might be having a heart attack, call 999 immediately.

There could be a rush of symptoms occurring all at once, or signs of the event could develop over weeks.

If you’ve already had a heart attack, another one following on from that may feel completely different.

Those who have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease – the leading cause of a heart attack – are likely to experience symptoms similar to a heart attack.

This includes chest pain, known as angina, which can be relieved by resting or taking a prescribed nitrate tablet or spray.

The NHS explained that breathlessness is also a sign of coronary heart disease.

People with coronary heart disease are strongly advised against smoking.

To help ease pressure off the heart, lifestyle adjustments include eating more healthily and doing regular exercise.

These lifestyle measures will also help prevent someone from developing coronary heart disease in the first place.

“A low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, which should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and whole grains,” said the NHS.

It also includes limiting the amount of salt in your diet and avoiding foods that contain saturated fats, such as:

  • Meat pies
  • Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Lard
  • Cream
  • Hard cheese
  • Cakes and biscuits
  • Foods that contain coconut or palm oil

Instead, choose foods that contain unsaturated fats, such as: oily fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

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