A heart attack or stroke can have devastating consequences if it isn’t diagnosed and treated in time. Living a healthy lifestyle plays a big role in preventing heart disease, heart attacks and strokes, but that sadly doesn’t guarantee they won’t happen. Knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for can help you catch these major medical issues early, which could save a life.
Heart Health Awareness Month is a good time to reflect on your own wellbeing, and that of your loved ones. Be aware of risk factors that could contribute to a stroke or heart attack, and be prepared to call your local emergency response number if you spot any tell-tale symptoms.
Did you know? More than 70% of cardiac and breathing emergencies happen at home, when a family member is present and available to help a patient. This is good news, provided the family member knows what to look for and how to respond.
According to the American Heart Association and the Heart Foundation, these are the key signs to watch out for:
Heart Attack Warning Signs
- Discomfort, pain or a “squeezing” sensation in the chest (the centre of the chest, between the breasts or behind the breastbone)
- Discomfort or pain spreading to other areas of the upper body (arms, the back, neck, jaw)
- Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
- Sudden overwhelming anxiety, dizziness or light-headedness
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Sudden weakness or fatigue
It’s important to note that while chest pain is the most common sign of a heart attack, different patients can present with different symptoms. Women are more likely than men to experience the other common symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain. In some cases, women and diabetic people can experience a heart attack with no chest pain at all.
While some heart attacks are sudden and intense, most start slowly. The sooner you’re able to identify a heart attack and seek medical attention, the better.
Stroke Warning Signs
A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain. It’s usually not painful, which means patients often ignore or dismiss their symptoms.
Sings of a stroke include:
- Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg (usually on one side of the body)
- Mental confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden vision problems
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, trouble walking
- Sudden, severe headache
An easy way to diagnose a stroke is to remember the word FAST: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to seek medical help.
If you, a loved one, a friend or a colleague start experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, seek immediate medical attention. Call your local emergency services and arrange for an ambulance to come as soon as possible.
Heart Attack and Stroke Symptoms. Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/heart-attack-and-stroke-symptoms
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack. Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack
Signs of a Stroke. Retrieved from: http://www.heartfoundation.co.za/recognise-a-stroke/
Signs of a Heart Attack. Retrieved from: http://www.heartfoundation.co.za/signs-of-a-heart-attack/