Learning the warning signs of a heart attack and making a plan for how to respond to them could help save your life.
While it may not be pleasant to think about, planning what to do in the event of a heart attack could prove to be a lifesaving move.
"You don't want to go through life thinking you're going to have a heart attack," says Regional Heart Center Cardiologist, Chris Thompson, M.D. "But if you are at high risk for a heart attack, then you should be aware that you could have a problem."
Who's at risk?
A heart attack can happen at any age, but the risk increases for men older than 45 and women older than 50. In addition to age, other factors that increase the risk of heart attack include:
If you have one or more risk factors, Dr. Thompson says you should visit your doctor to find out how to reduce your risk for heart attack.
Recognize the warning signs
In the movies, heart attack victims often clutch their chest in pain and keel over. But in reality, most heart attacks start slowly as mild pain or discomfort.
It's important to recognize the signs of a heart attack. According to Dr. Thompson, they include:
If you experience any of these symptoms or think you may be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
During a heart attack, a clot blocks the flow of blood to your heart. The longer you delay medical attention, the greater the damage to your heart muscle.
If you are at high risk, it's a good idea to plan now what you would do if you had a heart attack.
"You don't need to be obsessed with it, but you do need to be aware," Dr. Thompson says. "There's a lot we can do nowadays to save lives."
Along with learning the heart attack warning signs, Dr. Thompson says you should:
Remember, being prepared for a heart attack may save your life.