8 Early Signs of a Heart Attack You Need to Know

A heart attack can be a scary experience, especially if you aren’t aware of the common signs that precede it. Even though this condition is often portrayed as a surprise attack in many films and TV shows, it actually doesn’t need to be that way. By recognizing the red flags early on, you can take action to prevent the onset of a full-blown heart attack.

That way, you can recover faster and reduce your risk of further complications. If you know what to look for, you can catch a heart attack before it happens. The sooner you catch a heart attack, the better your chances are of avoiding any serious or permanent side effects from the attack itself or its aftermath. With early recognition, you can also get treatment sooner — which lessens the severity and duration of any long-term issues from such an event.

1. Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath is a common refrain among heart attack patients, and it’s rarely a good sign. When you’re experiencing a heart attack, your body is under stress — and your breathing is one of the first systems to feel the strain. If you notice that you’re gasping while transitioning between activities — especially if you’ve never experienced it before. Shortness of breath can be caused by other conditions, too. But if you experience this along with other heart attack symptoms, it’s a sign that things have progressed to a critical stage. It’s important to seek medical attention at this point — and be sure to tell your doctor about any shortness of breath you’re experiencing.

2. Chest pain or pressure

This is another common feature of a heart attack. Often, it will feel like a tightness or pressure in your chest or upper back. At other times, it may feel like a wrenching or squeezing sensation in these areas. It can also feel like heavy or tight pressure on your chest that doesn’t go away. chest pain or pressure that comes on suddenly, doesn’t go away, and feels much more intense than usual. Keep in mind, though, that chest pain isn’t a surefire sign of a heart attack. Some people with heart issues, like people without them, also experience pain in the chest. The difference, of course, is that people with heart issues often experience pain in the chest that’s related to their heart.

3. Discomfort in your arm or shoulder

Discomfort in your arm or shoulder is another telltale sign of a heart attack. It may feel like an achy, heavy, or tight sensation in one of your upper limbs. It can also feel like a burning sensation — especially when you move your arm or shoulder, or when your arm is at rest. Discomfort in your arm or shoulder can be caused by other conditions, too.

But if you experience this along with other heart attack symptoms, it’s a sign that things have progressed to a critical stage. It’s important to seek medical attention at this point — and be sure to tell your doctor about any arm or shoulder discomfort you’re experiencing.

4. Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are also often associated with a heart attack. If you notice that you’re suddenly experiencing nausea, along with other heart attack symptoms, it’s a sign that your body is trying to fend off the event. For many people, nausea and vomiting are the first telltale signs of a heart attack — sometimes even before chest pain is felt.

Nausea and vomiting can be caused by other conditions, too. But if you experience this along with other heart attack symptoms, it’s a sign that things have progressed to a critical stage. It’s important to seek medical attention at this point — and be sure to tell your doctor about any nausea or vomiting you’re experiencing.

5. Extreme fatigue

Extreme fatigue is often a sign of a heart attack, especially if you don’t have a history of it. If you notice that you suddenly have a much harder time recovering between activities than usual, it could be a sign that you’re experiencing a heart attack. Excessive fatigue can be caused by other conditions, too. But if you experience this along with other heart attack symptoms, it’s a sign that things have progressed to a critical stage. It’s important to seek medical attention at this point — and be sure to tell your doctor about your newfound fatigue.

6. Strain when breathing

In some cases, a heart attack can cause the lungs to become strained. You may notice that you’re having to work harder to breathe normally, or that you’re feeling out of breath for seemingly no reason. If you notice breathing issues that don’t seem to go away, it’s a sign of a heart attack — especially if you don’t have a history of respiratory problems. Strain when breathing can be caused by other conditions, too. But if you experience this along with other heart attack symptoms, it’s a sign that things have progressed to a critical stage. It’s important to seek medical attention at this point — and be sure to tell your doctor about your breathing issues.

7. Dizziness and Light-headedness

Light-headedness and dizziness can be a sign of a heart attack — especially if you experience them suddenly. Like most other heart attack symptoms, dizziness and light-headedness can be caused by other conditions, too. But they’re often associated with a heart attack — especially if they come on suddenly. Dizziness and light-headedness may come and go — or they may stay consistent. Either way, they’re probably not normal for you. If you notice these symptoms, especially if they come on suddenly — and especially if you don’t have a history of them — it’s a sign of a heart attack. It’s important to seek medical attention at this point.

8. Dark urine

Dark or discolored urine is often a sign of a heart attack. If you notice that your urine has taken on a darker, more concentrated color, it could be a sign of blood in your system. In some cases, it can be a sign of a heart attack, especially if you don’t have a history of kidney issues or another common cause of dark urine. Dark urine can be caused by other conditions, too. But if you experience this along with other heart attack symptoms, it’s a sign that things have progressed to a critical stage. It’s important to seek medical attention at this point — and be sure to tell your doctor about your dark urine.

Other early signs of a heart attack

There are many other early signs of a heart attack that you should be aware of, too. These include fatigue, sweating, shortness of breath even when resting, a racing or irregular heartbeat, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to get medical attention as soon as possible.

You should also let your doctor know if you have a family history of heart disease, if you smoke or if you have high blood pressure. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to get medical attention as soon as possible.

These symptoms are all common signs of a heart attack, but they can also be indicators of other conditions. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis so you can receive the proper treatment. If you notice any of these signs, don’t hesitate to see a doctor.

Summary

Heart attacks are a very real but often overlooked risk for many people. They can come on suddenly, but many people experience symptoms before the attack occurs. If you experience any of the symptoms on this list, you should see a doctor. Heart attacks are treatable and can often be treated before they become full-blown incidents. If you’re aware of the signs of a heart attack, you can catch it before it happens and get treated before any lasting harm is done.

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