When in doubt

When in doubt, check it out.

Knowing that a heart attack (myocardial infarction) has potential to cause cardiac arrest creates a strong case for early diagnosis and treatment. While you may have a heart attack, which can damage your heart muscle, it won't necessarily stop your heart if you recognize the symptoms and seek treatment early.

While many heart attack have symptoms that include persistent discomfort in the center of the chest, discomfort can also be located in other areas of the upper body including both arms, back, neck, jaw, and stomach. Heart attack symptoms may also include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Numbness in your limbs
  • Unexplained fatigue, weakness or anxiety

These symptoms should never be ignored, especially if you are already at risk for a heart attack.

While some risk factors are unavoidable, others can be mitigated with simple lifestyle changes. Heart attack risk factors include:

  • Age and gender
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol and low HDL levels
  • Smoking and second-hand, which can nearly double the risk of heart attack
  • Diabetes

Many of the people who are hospitalized following a cardiac arrest said that they experienced heart attack symptoms days, weeks and even months before their cardiac arrest occurred.

So why didn't they go to the doctor? Some thought that the signs were too subtle to be a heart attack. Some thought the symptoms were related to something else like stress or being too active on the weekend. Still others didn't have time or thought it would cost too much for an EKG, stress test or angioplasty.

Early treatment for a heart attack may save your brain function and your heart muscle. It may also save you the cost of an ambulance ride, the cost of an extended stay in the intensive care unit, and save your family days of stress and worry as they wait.

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