Nobody wants to believe that they’re going to have a heart attack. But if you have heart disease, or you are at higher than average risk for it — for instance, if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, are overweight, a smoker, or you have a family history of heart disease — you need to plan ahead.
That’s the only way you can be sure to get the best help possible, thereby increasing the likelihood that you’ll not only survive, but that your heart will sustain as little damage as possible.
A heart attack blocks the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Most people don’t die from the heart attack itself; they die because the heart, trying frantically to get blood flowing again, goes into a wild, irregular beat called ventricular fibrillation.
This can result in a sudden cardiac arrest. When it occurs outside of a hospital, it’s nearly always fatal.
Planning ahead could save your life, especially if you are at higher-than-average risk.
So you need to be able to recognize heart attack symptoms, which can include one or more of the following:
• Chest pain or pressure
• Pain radiating to the neck and shoulders and down the arm
• Back pain
• Shortness of breath, either at rest or during activity that ordinarily would not cause it
• Paleness or sweating
• Nausea, vomiting, or burping
• Profound weakness
Unfortunately, most people focus only on chest pain, which may not be present, especially for women, who often experience the other symptoms.
You can prepare for such symptoms by keeping 325 mg doses of aspirin on hand, making sure the address number to your house is clearly visible in case emergency services need to be called, and keeping a handy list of any medications you’re taking.
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