Heart attacks happen when there’s a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of the heart muscle, which is usually the result of harmful substances clogging up the coronary arteries that transport blood to the vital organs. Without enough blood and oxygen, the heart muscle can be seriously damaged and how fast you respond will determine the extent of the damage. It is therefore imperative to act on the warning signs as soon as they arise.
The problem is, people often dismiss the heart attack warning signs as a less serious condition.
Chest pain, for example, is easily attributed to a wide range of causes, such as heartburn or indigestion.
It is a major warning sign of having a heart, however so must be taken seriously.
When is chest pain serious?
According to the British Heart Foundation, chest pain may be indicative of a heart attack if it is:
- Spreads to you arms, back, neck or jaw
- feels heavy or tight
- Lasts more than 15 minutes
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Chest pain: Chest pain that is sudden or lasts longer than 15 minutes could signal a heart attack
Chest pain can also vary in its intensity.
The health body explains: “For some people the pain or tightness in their chest is severe, while other people just feel uncomfortable, or pain similar to indigestion.”
If you frequently experience unexplained chest pain, book an appointment with your GP as it’s possible you may have an undiagnosed heart condition, advises the health site.
If chest pain is accompanied by nausea or breathlessness, this is also a tell-tale sign, it warns.
How to respond to a heart attack
According to the BHF, the first thing you must do is dial 999 immediately for an ambulance.
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“Don’t worry if you’re not completely sure whether your symptoms are a heart attack, it’s really important that you seek medical attention regardless as quickly as possible,” explains the health body.
Next, you should:
- Sit down and rest
- Take a 300mg aspirin if you have one within arm’s reach
- Stay calm and wait for the paramedics
How to prevent a heart attack
While response rate is imperative, prevention is the most important step in warding off the dangers associated with heart attacks.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays a key role in reducing your risk of having a heart attack.
Heart attack symptoms: Chest pain may also vary in intensity, ranging from mild to severe
A heart-healthy diet is any diet that consists of foods high in a type of fat called unsaturated fat.
This is because saturated fats, its harmful counterpart, contain a fatty substance called LDL cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol clogs up your arteries, triggering the mechanisms that lead to a heart attack.
It is therefore important to swap out LDL cholesterol-ridden foods, such as fried food and cakes and biscuits, and replace them with foods such as oily fish, seeds, nuts and avocados.
An easy way to this is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet, which mainly consists of eating more bread, fruit, vegetables and fish, and less meat, says the NHS.
In addition to eating a healthy, balanced diet, it is also important to engage in regular exercise to reduce your heart attack risk.
The NHS explains: “Being active and doing regular exercise will lower your blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.”
As the health body explains, regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will help to lower your blood pressure, a precursor to having a heart attack.