Heart attack happens when there is a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of a person’s heart muscle. The symptoms can be sudden and severe. A heart attack is a medical emergency that requires urgent treatment. According to the British Heart Foundation, a person should call 999 immediately if they think they are having a heart attack. The level of risk is determined by how quickly someone responds to the warning signs.
As the NHS explained, shortness of breath may signify someone is having a heart attack.
Worryingly, it may also signify heart failure, which can develop after a heart attack if the heart muscle is extensively damaged, explained the health site.
Why does a heart failure cause breathlessness?
According to the American Heart Association: “Blood backs up in the pulmonary veins (the vessels that return blood from the lungs to the heart) because the heart can’t keep up with the supply.
“This causes fluid to leak into the lungs.”
How to spot breathlessness
As Professor Peter Weissberg, former Medical Director of the BHF and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist to Addenbrooke’s Hospital explained, it is easy to dismiss breathlessness as a sign of being unfit.
It’s important to take breathlessness seriously and talk to your doctor as soon as possible
But feeling out of breath while doing everyday activities, especially if a person hasn’t experienced this before, could be a sign of a potentially serious heart condition.
“It’s important to take breathlessness seriously and talk to your doctor as soon as possible, cautioned Professor Weissberg.
He added: “Most heart disease is treatable, but it is important to have it diagnosed before it is too late.”
As the NHS explained, other common symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain – the chest can feel like it’s being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back
- Feeling weak or lightheaded, or both
- An overwhelming feeling of anxiety
“It’s important to stress that not everyone experiences severe chest pain. The pain can often be mild and mistaken for indigestion,” noted the health body.
Making a number of lifestyle changes can ward off the risk of having a heart attack.
Quitting smoking is the single best thing a person can do, said the BHF. As the health body noted, smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked.
The American Heart association also advised opting for a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nontropical vegetable oils, and nuts; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats.
The NHS also emphasised maintaining an active lifestyle to stave off the risk.
“Taking regular exercise will lower your blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition,” explained the health site.
It also brings the added health benefit of losing weight, which will help a person lower their blood pressure, added the health body.
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