Don't ignore these early warning signs of heart attacks

Know the warning signs of a heart attack – it could save a life. 

4 March 2020
3 minute read

Businessman with hand on heart

If someone is having a heart attack, minutes matter – the earlier a person receives medical help, the greater their chances of surviving. For this reason, it’s useful to know the warning signs of a heart attack so that medical help can be sought.

Know the warning signs of a heart attack – it could save a life. 

Most of us know the classic sign of a heart attack is a sudden, radiating chest pain or pressure that can spread to your shoulders, arms or jaw – but there are a number of other signs that may occur with the attack, or in the hours or days preceding it.

We spoke to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of South Africa (HSFSA) to learn the warning signs. They are: 

SweatingSweating, when you haven’t been exerting yourself, is a possible sign of an impending heart attack. For women, this can feel similar to the hot flushes or night sweats of menopause.

Feeling light headed, dizzy or short of breathMost people think that shortness of breath is due to a problem with their lungs, but in fact, it could be your body’s response to the shortage of circulating oxygen because your heart is weakening. This is often the first sign of heart disease.

Anxiety and sleep disorderHeart disease leads to a decrease in oxygen levels in your body. This can lead to ongoing unexplained anxiety or insomnia. This is one of the warning signs that can be experienced months before the actual heart attack.

Mild chest pain that feels like indigestion or heartburn, which can lead to nausea or vomiting If your arteries are becoming blocked by fatty deposits, you will experience angina, which feels like a squeezing pain in your chest – but the pain can be transmitted down into your stomach, leading to what feels like a stomach complication rather than a heart attack.

Rapid, pounding or irregular heartbeat Your heart may feel that it is fluttering or pounding, even if you have done no exercise. Of course, this symptom can be triggered by exercise as well – be concerned if you experience unusual palpitations that have no explanation.
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or visit a hospital immediately – even if there could be another explanation for the symptom. Early detection could save your life.

Raise your awareness during Heart Awareness Month September is Heart Awareness Month in South Africa, and the HSFSA is carrying out various activities to help the public to better understand, diagnose and prevent heart disease. These are their tips for taking care of your heart:

1. Your heart does not want the extra salt
Try to buy food with low or no salt, and get out of the habit of adding salt to your food. Try vinegar or lemon juice for a flavour boost that doesn’t put strain on your heart.

2. Keep it light, bring obesity down
The HSFSA want to emphasise that physical exercise and healthy eating go hand in hand. Evaluate what you eat, exercise portion control and realise that eating healthily is not a diet but rather a lifestyle.

3. Quit smoking – you can do it
Smoking is one of the biggest drivers of heart disease. Don’t make excuses for yourself, and do whatever you can to kick this habit for good.

4. Don’t let World Heart Day – 29 September – pass you by
The HSFSA has teamed up with Dischem, which will be offering free health risk assessments, including blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol screening, and body mass index (BMI) assessments, during September and October. The hashtag for the campaign is #CheckYourPower. Take part – it’s free, and it could save your life.

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