What are the signs of a heart attack and how to prevent it?

Heart attacks can occur in men and women of any age, though some risk factors may make cardiac arrest more likely in some than others. These risk factors or warning signs include fitness level, genetics, diet, and more. While you can survive a cardiac arrest, you must call 999 as soon as possible to get medical intervention. Waiting too long decreases your chance of survival.


What is a heart attack? 

Heart attacks happen when a blood vessel supplying the blood flow to the heart is reduced or blocked due to a clot. Clots can occur anywhere, from your heart to your brain to your limbs. When a clot forms and blocks an artery, it causes serious problems. In the brain, it can cause a stroke, and if a clot flows to the heart or your coronary arteries, it can cause a heart attack, otherwise known as cardiac arrest.

These clots are caused by a build-up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances that are collectively known as plaque in the arteries. Healthy living that includes regular exercise and a healthy diet can minimise plaque build-up and reduce your risk of cardiac arrest. If you’re worried you are at risk of having a heart attack, use NHS GP’s resources to take steps towards lowering your risk.


Warning signs and symptoms

There are 5 main signs and symptoms of a heart attack in both men and women.

  • Chest pain 

Chest pain is the most common sign of a heart attack. You’ll usually experience this pain in the left or centre of your chest. It usually lasts a few minutes and then goes away before coming back. You may feel pressure, fullness, or pain.

  • Dizziness 

Another common symptom of cardiac arrest is that you may suddenly feel light-headed, faint, or weak. This may even be accompanied by a cold sweat.

  • Pain in joints 

In addition to chest pain, you may also feel pain or discomfort in your joints, most notably your jaw, neck, back, and in your arms and shoulders.

  • Shortness of breath 

If you also experience shortness of breath or feel like you can’t breathe properly, this is another sign of a heart attack.

  • Nausea 

Nausea is another one of the common heart attack symptoms. It’s usually experienced by women and not men. Always get in touch with emergency services if you experience sudden nausea alongside the other symptoms of cardiac arrest.


Heart attack risk factors 

There are three main factors that indicate a risk of heart attack:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Smoking

Genetics and age also play a factor, with your risk of cardiac arrest increasing as you age and in those with a family history of heart conditions.


How to prevent a heart attack 

Healthy living and caring for your body is the easiest way to lower your chances or prevent heart attack. If you are already at risk, you can also look into medication to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Use our available self help service to guide you through the health changes you need to make for your lifestyle and to connect with a GP who can inform you of any medication options that would be a good fit.

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