Heart disease is one of the main causes of death among both men and women.
Many people can recover from a heart attack if they receive help quickly. Responding quickly, and recognising the signs and symptoms of someone who is having a heart attack, could save their life.
Here’s how to recognise the onset of a heart attack.
1. Know who is at risk for a heart attack
The following factors increase the risk of a heart attack:
- A history of heart disease in the family
- High levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein)
- Men over age 45 and women over age 55 (or after menopause)
- A sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes
2. Recognise the signs and symptoms of the onset of a heart attack
- Chest pain. The victim may complain of a distressing pressure or squeezing sensation in the centre of the chest. This feeling may last a few minutes or more, or disappear and return later.
- Discomfort in the upper body, including in one or both arms, the neck, jaw, stomach, or back.
- Shortness of breath. This may occur along with or before chest pains.
- Nausea, vomiting, light-headedness or fainting, breaking out in a cold sweat and pain radiating out from the centre to the shoulders, jaw, and back.
If all signs and symptoms disappear within five minutes, see your doctor anyway.
3. Call emergency services immediately if you suspect someone is having a heart attack
The sooner medical treatment is received, the greater the chance of surviving the attack. Fast response can also reduce damage caused to the heart, lowering the risk of a permanent disability in those who survive. Treatment is most effective if started within one hour of the first signs or symptoms of an attack.
4. Heart attack survivors should speak to their doctor for advice before doing any of the following:
- Going back to work
- Driving a vehicle
- Doing strenuous physical activity
- Having sex
- Travelling by air
Be aware that you are at higher risk for a second heart attack, if you have had one before. Discuss with your health practitioner what lifestyle changes you need to make in order to avoid a second heart attack.
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