Heart Attack: Signs, Symptoms and Emergency Treatment

Heart HealthBy Onlymyhealth editorial teamJan 23, 2019

Cardiovascular diseases have become number one cause of mortality in India, while most people are aware that chest pain is the common symptom but they do not know what the other symptoms are.

Dr. Nishith Chandra, Director Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Heart Institute has described ways to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease is a very common heart disease. In this disease, the arteries of the heart which run on the surface of the heart get blocked. The main function of these arteries is to supply blood to the heart musculature.  When the arteries get blocked, the heart muscles receive less blood and the person experiences breathlessness, angina and the final stage is heart attack. The main cause of the blockage is increased cholesterol which leads to plaque build-up and poor blood supply to the heart muscles. 

What are the risk factors of coronary heart disease?

There are several risk factors, out of which some of them are modifiable while the others are non-modifiable. You can control the modifiable risk factors but you do not have any control over the non-modifiable risk factors. The non-modifiable risk factors may include:

  • Age: Males above 55 years of age and females above 60 years of age are more likely to develop the disease
  • Gender: Males are more likely to suffer from the disease than the females  
  • Family history: If the parents have experienced a heart disease at a younger age then the child is at a higher risk of getting a heart disease.

Modifiable risk factors may include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

What are the common symptoms of a heart attack?

The most common symptom of a heart attack is an excruciating chest pain on the left side or in the center of the chest associated with sweating, intense weakness and sense of impending doom. But sometimes these symptoms are not visible and the person experiences other symptoms like intense weakness and vomiting. A heart attack can show a variety of symptoms. But if you have any of the above mentioned risk factors then you should be very cautious about these symptoms. 

What should be the ideal blood pressure reading for a healthy person?

The ideal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm Hg. The doctors do not start the medications at this level. The doctors usually start the medication at 140/90 mm Hg for treating blood pressure. 

What does the fluctuation in blood pressure indicate?

The blood pressure and the heart rate are bound to fluctuate but in a normal range. There is no static blood pressure range. The blood pressure fluctuates according to the different situations like a stressful situation would lead to high blood pressure and while sleeping your blood pressure will fall. But all these parameters have a normal range. Any fluctuation below and above the normal range requires treatment.

Are the symptoms of heart attack different in men and women?

No, the symptoms are same in both men and women. The common symptom is pain in the chest in both men and women, for example, earlier a person is able to walk one kilometer without any discomfort but now the person experiences pain even after walking a half kilometer, then this a warning sign which should not be ignored. Breathlessness while climbing stairs or after walking is also a warning sign. In addition, if the person has any of the risk factors then these warning signs should not be ignored.

When should a person approach the doctor and as an individual what medical aid can be provided to the patient before reaching the hospital?

During a heart attack every secound counts because a slight delay means that your heart muscle will be irreversibly damaged. As soon as you suspect a heart attack, you should first take an aspirin dissolved in water. It will act as a blood thinner because it has antiplatelet properties. You should search for the nearest heart hospital for a quick treatment. 

A lot of younger people complain of heart diseases, what can these youngsters do to reduce the risk?

To reduce the risk of developing a heart disease you should adopt a healthy lifestyle from childhood only like playing outside, regular exercising or playing any sport regularly. You should quit smoking and drinking. One should also maintain a healthy weight.