We can all agree that a heart attack is a bad thing, but unfortunately, it happens more frequently than you may realize. Every year, more than 800,000 people in the United States suffer from heart attacks, and 12% of them don’t survive. That’s a significant loss, and some of those deaths may have been avoided had the symptoms been recognized sooner. We’ll five into some of the more common heart attack symptoms shortly, but first, let’s review what is happening inside a person’s body when a heart attack occurs.

A heart attack is known technically as a myocardial infarction and are the result of a lack of blood flow to the heart. Over time, an excess of cholesterol in the blood can build up inside the walls of your arteries and form a substance called plaque. Think about the times you’ve cooked a very fatty meal, then the next day when you pull the leftovers out of the fridge they’re covered in a greasy residue. Now, imagine that building up inside your arteries, it would make it difficult for blood to make its way to your heart. When that plaque builds up enough it will begin to restrict blood flow leading to chest pain. Often, a portion of the plaque breaks off and blocks the artery completely. Once the artery is blocked and your heart is no longer receiving enough blood the muscle can become severely damaged and a heart attack occurs.

We don’t tell you these things to scare you. The more informed you are about what is happening inside your body, the better you’ll be able to act in response to or in the prevention of a heart attack.

Know What Symptoms To Look For

You’ve seen people in movies and on television experience heart attacks before. They grasp an arm, have a pained look on their faces, and often slump to the ground. It’s easy to recognize the symptoms when they’re being displayed on a big screen in front of us but would you be able to tell if you or someone you love is having a heart attack?

It’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack so you know what is happening to you when they come on. Symptoms vary from person to person, however, there are several that are most common. The most common symptom reported from heart attack survivors is chest pain or tightness. You may also feel weak or lightheaded as your body responds to a lack of blood flow. Some survivors also report pain in the neck, jaw, arms, or shoulders. Everyone’s heart attack experience is different, but it helps be aware of the potential symptoms so you can recognize them if they happen to you.

Seek Professional Medical Attention

Once you realize that you’re having a heart attack, seek medical assistance immediately. Whether you call 911 or manage to get yourself to a hospital, the quicker you are assessed by a medical professional, the better off you will be. And while you’re at it, if you are alone at the time you’re experiencing symptoms, you may want to reach out to a family member or loved one who can advocate for you in the event that you’re incapacitated.

Be Still And Try To Remain Calm

It’s easy to imagine that having a heart attack would make one more than a little anxious. However, it’s important to remain as still and calm as possible so you don’t put any additional stress on your heart. If you can, find a place to sit comfortably while you wait for help to arrive. 

If Possible, Take An Aspirin

You may or may not already take aspirin each day as prescribed by your cardiologist. Aspirin functions as a blood thinner and can keep your blood from clotting. Clotting blood inside your arteries can be dangerous as it prevents blood from flowing properly to your heart. If you are aware enough of your heart attack risks to have sought out an article like this one, it is probably a good idea to talk to your cardiologist about the benefits of taking aspirin. Research suggests that in the event of an emergency, chewing the aspirin before swallowing it will provide quicker results. In the midst of a heart attack, time is of the essence. 

Many heart attacks are survivable, and quick response times result in less damage to the heart muscle. Make sure that the people you spend the most time with also know what signs to look for so that, in the event of a heart attack, you are surrounded by people who are prepared to help you.

We want you to know how to survive a heart attack, but even more than that we want you to avoid having a heart attack altogether. Before you find yourself in the back of an ambulance, there are lifestyle changes that you can make today to keep your heart healthy and strong. Talk to your cardiologist about a diet and exercise routine that would be best for your heart health and stick to it. You owe it to yourself and the people you love the most to do whatever you can to prevent having a heart attack. If you don’t have a cardiologist, give us a call today, we’d love to introduce you to a member of our medical team.