Excerpt: Could that heartburn you’re feeling actually be a sign of heart attack? Know the red flags and risk factors of heart disease, as well as how to prevent a heart attack from developing.
A heart attack is a major health emergency. But, many people mistake their symptoms for something else. Make sure you know the risk factors and warning signs so you can act in time.
Heart Attack Misconceptions
One primary indicator for heart attack is a change in physical status. Unfortunately, many people attribute changes to old age or indigestion. For example, they struggle walking up a flight of stairs. Or, they experience a heartburn-like sensation in their chest. Instead of addressing these symptoms, individuals may delay care and experience cardiac arrest.
Heart patients who already underwent a heart event comprise a second group that may be ignoring a potential “ticking time bomb.” The problem is complacency. Everything may seem fine now, but there is no guarantee prior intervention is lasting. To prevent a subsequent event, it’s important for any heart patient to schedule regular visits with their cardiologist.
Who Is at Risk for Heart Disease?
Some individuals have a higher risk of heart disease, especially if they have other conditions like:
high blood pressure
People who eat diets heavy in processed foods also face increased risk of heart attack. Data points to the fact that certain populations are in the high-risk category, such as African Americans and Latinos.
Heart Attack Warning Signs
Heart events portrayed in movies and TV don’t capture the whole story. While chest pain can be a major symptom of heart attack, it’s not the only one. Many people experience:
chest heaviness or pressure
burning sensation in the chest
radiating pain/burning in the arm, jaw, or back
shortness of breath
nausea or vomiting
It’s common for these symptoms to arise upon physical activity, but emotional distress can also be a culprit. Experts urge anyone who feels these symptoms to visit with either their primary care physician or cardiologist as soon as possible.
Even with family history, individuals can take steps to reduce risk of heart disease. If comorbidities exist, medication adherence is critical. It’s also important to instill strategies like proper nutrition and regular exercise. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, five days a week. Of course, nutrition and exercise apply to anyone—whether they have a genetic predisposition or not.
If there is a strong family history of heart disease, it’s a good idea for friends and family members to master CPR. Hopefully they will never be called upon to perform it. Yet, it’s a life-saving mechanism that can be the bridge until emergency medical services arrive.
Put Your Health First
The biggest takeaway is for individuals—whether they have a family history of heart disease or not—to pay close attention to any changes in their health. Don’t chock new symptoms up to “old age.” If you experience any red flags, enlist the help of a physician.