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Are You Familiar with The Symptoms of Heart Attack?

Posted by Ng Peng Hock Patient Expert

Symptoms such as nausea and pain in the jaw, chest or left arm may emerge before heart attack strikes on somebody. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of these symptoms. Hence, they may simply miss their chance of surviving.

A group of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing recently reported that many people with heart disease do not know the symptoms of a heart attack, even though they are at higher risk of getting one: 5 to 7 times higher than those with no such history. The results of their findings were published on May 27, 2008 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

44 percent of the 3,522 patients they looked in the study scored poorly on a true-false test measuring how perceptive they were about the heart attack symptoms. These selected patients, who were in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, had previously suffered a heart attack or had undergone a procedure, such as angioplasty, for heart disease.

Generally, women, patients who had taken part in cardiac rehabilitation, people with higher education, younger people and those who were treated by heart specialists rather than family doctors tended to have the best scores on the test.

For the past decades, it was observed that patients who were frequently hospitalized would receive education and counseling from physicians and nurses during their hospital stay. Unfortunately, the structural changes in the healthcare industry have caused patients to shorten their hospital stay and use outpatient facilities instead. This somehow has decreased the time available for the education of patients.

The researchers stressed that people who suffer a heart attack would have a better chance of surviving if they are treated within one hour, but most patients are admitted to the hospital 2 and a half hours to 3 hours after symptoms begin.

In fact, numerous studies have earlier found that patients who have already suffered an earlier heart attack do not seek help any faster than those who had no such health history do. According to the researchers, such findings may not be surprising with the lack of knowledge about the range of symptoms for heart attack as measured in the current study.
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Heart Attack Warning Signs
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.   
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. 
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.  
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness    

As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.

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NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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