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Early warning signs of a heart attack & how to save your life in seconds

Heart attacks are a serious medical emergency that can strike anyone, at any time.

A stock photo of someone posing like they suffered a heart attack

Understanding the early warning signs of a heart attack and knowing how to respond can be the difference between life and death.

In this article, we will delve into what a heart attack is, its causes, the risk factors that contribute to it, and most importantly, how you can save your life in seconds during a heart attack.

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked, usually due to a blood clot.

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This blockage prevents oxygen and nutrients from reaching the heart, leading to damage or death of the heart muscle.

The longer the blood flow is obstructed, the more severe the damage becomes.

The most common cause of a heart attack is atherosclerosis, a condition where fatty deposits, known as plaques, build up inside the arteries.

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Over time, these plaques can rupture, causing a blood clot to form and block the artery.

Other causes of heart attacks include coronary artery spasms and blood clots from other parts of the body that travel to the heart.

Certain factors increase the risk of experiencing a heart attack. These risk factors can be divided into two categories: modifiable and non-modifiable.

Non-modifiable risk factors include age, gender, and family history.

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Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 are more prone to heart attacks.

Additionally, if you have a close relative who has suffered from a heart attack, your risk increases.

Modifiable risk factors, on the other hand, can be controlled or modified to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

These include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, and stress.

Making positive lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, can significantly lower your risk of a heart attack.

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Recognising the early warning signs of a heart attack is crucial for prompt action. The most common symptoms include:

1. Chest pain or discomfort

This is the most well-known symptom of a heart attack. The pain may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or aching in the chest. It can last for a few minutes or come and go.

2. Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body

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The pain can radiate to the arms (usually the left arm), back, neck, jaw, or stomach. It may be accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness.

3. Shortness of breath

Difficulty breathing or feeling breathless even during rest or minimal exertion can be a sign of a heart attack.

This symptom is more common in women, older adults, and those with diabetes.

4. Cold sweats, nausea, or lightheadedness

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Feeling clammy, sweaty, nauseous, or dizzy without any apparent reason can be indicative of a heart attack.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is crucial to act quickly. Every second counts during a heart attack.

1. Call emergency services

Dial the emergency number in your country immediately. Do not hesitate or try to tough it out. The sooner medical help arrives, the better your chances of survival.

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2. Chew aspirin

If you are not allergic to aspirin, chewing and swallowing one regular-strength aspirin (325 milligrams) can help prevent further blood clotting and reduce the damage to your heart.

3. Stay calm and rest

Find a comfortable position and try to stay as calm as possible. Avoid any physical exertion, as it can worsen the heart attack.

4. Use an automated external defibrillator (AED)

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If an AED is available nearby, follow the instructions and use it if necessary. AEDs can help restore a normal heart rhythm during a cardiac arrest.

Being aware of the early warning signs of a heart attack and knowing how to respond can save your life or the life of a loved one.

By understanding the causes and risk factors of heart attacks and making positive lifestyle changes, you can significantly reduce your risk of experiencing this life-threatening event.

Take charge of your heart health and prioritize regular check-ups and screenings to catch any potential issues early on. Your heart, and your life, are worth it.

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