Classic vs. Lesser Known Signs of a Heart Attack

By the time you’re halfway through this blog post, someone in the United States will have had a heart attack. According to the CDC, a heart attack happens every 40 seconds on average, affecting more than 800,000 Americans every year.

Of course, seeking treatment at the first sign of a heart attack is critically important for preventing serious heart damage and other complications. Even though you might think it’s easy to spot a heart attack when it happens, it can actually be surprisingly difficult — unless you learn to recognize some of the less common signs. 

At Phoenix Heart, PLLC, our team knows that as important as it is to provide state-of-the-art care and treatment for cardiovascular issues, it’s also important to make sure our patients are educated about their heart health. In this post, the team reviews some of the common and not-so-common heart attack signs you should be watching out for.

Heart attack basics

Most heart attacks occur when the heart doesn’t get enough of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to function the way it’s supposed to. The most common cause is a blocked coronary artery. Arteries are blocked by the accumulation of sticky plaques that build up along the inside walls of the arteries, eventually making the arteries narrower and stiffer. Less commonly, a heart attack can occur when one of these arteries has a spasm, cutting off the normal blood flow to the heart.

Common vs. uncommon signs of a heart attack

When most of us think of a heart attack, we think of intense pain in the central or left side of the chest. In fact, this is the typical depiction of a heart attack we see in movies and on TV shows. For sure, heart attacks can cause intense chest pain (or angina), typically lasting for several minutes, sometimes subsiding then recurring. 

The second most well-known heart attack sign is chest pressure or the sensation of squeezing. The common comparison is, “It felt like an elephant sitting on my chest.” Other common signs include pain or tingling radiating down the left arm and shortness of breath. 

Knowing these signs is important, but it’s also really important to know that many people have far different symptoms during a heart attack. Because these symptoms aren’t as well known, it’s a lot easier to overlook them, and that means your heart attack may go untreated.

These lesser-known symptoms can include:

Anyone can experience these less-common symptoms of a heart attack, but they do tend to be more common among women

Don’t ignore the warning signs

If you suspect a heart attack, it’s vitally important to call 9-1-1 right away. To learn what you can do to prevent heart attacks and improve your cardiovascular health, call our offices in Glendale, Goodyear, Anthem, and Canyon City, Arizona, or request an appointment online, and let our team tailor a cardiovascular health plan just for you.

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