Are You at Risk for Heart Attack?

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Filed Under: Heart Health, Heart Attack
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

All too often, a heart attack strikes out of the blue. While we can certainly identify the heart risk factors likely to lead to heart attack, it is important to know that people who have good cholesterol levels, healthy triglycerides levels, and even those who are at their ideal weight have also fallen victim to heart attacks.  In other words, no one is truly exempt from having a heart attack.

Nevertheless, most people never think it’s going to happen to them, and the next thing they know, they’re a patient in a critical care unit. When I talk with them later, I find out that most survivors had an inkling something was brewing, but they dismissed the symptoms. In fact, denial is a major heart risk factor.

The technical definition of a heart attack is death or damage to part of the heart muscle that occurs when the blood supply is severely reduced or stopped, usually due to a blockage in the coronary arteries. The heart muscle suffers permanent damage if the blood supply is cut off for more than a few minutes. Clearly, time is of the essence when you’re dealing with a heart attack.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize when you’re having a heart attack. Although some people have sudden and intense symptoms, most heart attacks start slowly with mild discomfort. You may not know what’s wrong and wait too long before seeking medical help.

It’s also important to note that heart attack symptoms in women are not the same as in men. Although both men and women experience chest pressure or discomfort, women generally experience a wider variety of vague, ill-defined symptoms than men, including flu-like symptoms, fatigue, and jaw pain.

A woman is less likely to survive a heart attack—and one of the reasons why is that women have a different set of symptoms that are frequently mistaken for non-heart-related illnesses and not considered imminently dangerous.

I urge you, women and men, to find a local doctor you trust who will outline the signs of heart attack and help you avoid ever having one.  

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