Considering that heart attacks are the leading cause of death in Australia, it’s important you know what the symptoms are so it can be picked up early. Although it can be a dramatic event, many patients ignore their symptoms for a long time because it isn’t severe enough – sometimes leaving it too late.
Heart attacks are the result of an interruption to the blood supply to the heart muscle. If the muscle is still receiving some blood – but just not quite enough – it’s called ischaemia. If the blood supply is completely interrupted and no blood is getting through, the muscle starts to die – called infarction.
Symptoms can be different in different people, particularly between men and women. Although often people think a heart attack involves severe chest pain, it can feel quite different in different people.
- Central chest pressure or heaviness
- can also be felt as a squeezing sensation or a fullness – people often hold a fist to their chest to describe the sensation
- Chest pain
- not a mandatory symptom – it can be an unusual discomfort to describe
- Shortness of breath
- this is not always combined with chest pain – sometimes shortness of breath alone is the sign
- Pain in the left shoulder or in the left side of the neck or the jaw
- although the left is more common, the pain maybe in both sides, or across the back
- Upper central abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- this is more commonly seen in women
- sweating together with chest discomfort is a concerning sign for heart problems
Your heart is under more stress when you are exercising, so the occurence of symptoms while doing physical activity is particularly important. If you aren’t sure, notify your doctor so that further testing can be considered.
Read more at the Heart Foundation.