Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association, which occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. While oftentimes there are no warnings, there can be some signs or symptoms that a heart attack is on the horizon. Elizabeth Klodas, MD, practicing cardiologist and founder of Step One Foods, offers a few warning signs to look out for. Read on to learn what they are—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Signs Your Illness is Actually Coronavirus in Disguise.
You Are Experiencing Abnormal Circulation in Other Areas
Dr. Klodas maintains that if you have plaque in your carotid arteries (the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the head/brain) or arteries in your legs, chances are very high that you also have plaque build up in your heart arteries. "Atherosclerosis is a systemic disease," she explains. "Once you identify plaque in one spot, you can be pretty sure you have plaque elsewhere."
You Suffer From Diabetes
Diabetes is a definite risk factor for heart attack. "Individuals with diabetes are at such high risk of developing heart disease that for all intents and purposes they are treated as though they have heart disease already," Dr. Klodas reveals. "That means lowering goals for acceptable blood pressure control and being placed on statins to lower cholesterol."
You Have Other Controllable Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Dr. Klodas points out that high cholesterol, high blood pressure, excess weight, poor diet, inactivity and smoking are all controllable risk factors, "synergistic" in their effects. "The more of these you have and the longer you've had them for, the more likely you are to have a buildup of plaque in your arteries," she says.
You Have a Family History of Heart Disease
Individuals with family members who developed heart disease at younger ages (male relatives under 55 and/or female relatives under 65)—especially if multiple individuals are affected—are more likely to develop heart disease as well. However, "genetics is not destiny," Dr. Klodas adds. "It accounts for only about 20% of your predisposition which is why doing everything you can to help prevent heart disease in yourself is so important —especially if you have a family history of heart issues."
You Have ED
In men, erectile dysfunction can be an early indicator of poor vascular health, says Dr. Klodas. "Although many factors can contribute to ED, it has been found to be a reliable marker of underlying heart disease especially in the presence of other risk factors," she explains.
You Are Older
Coronary and vascular disease become more likely as we age. "But just as genetics is not destiny, age isn't either," Dr. Klodas explains. "Not every older individual succumbs to heart disease. But it does mean that the older you get the more seriously you should take any suspicious symptoms (like chest pain or unusual shortness of breath or unusual fatigue)."
You Are Experiencing Chest Pain, Pressure, Burning or Heaviness
Chest pain/pressure/burning/heaviness that is not going away—especially if associated with a sense of breathlessness, sweating, lightheadedness or feeling of doom—can be a sign you are experiencing a heart attack. "Not everything that is chest pain or shortness of breath or lightheadedness or sweating means a heart attack, but if you're experiencing symptoms that are unusual and that are not going away, it's safest to seek evaluation," Dr. Klodas suggests.
You Are Experiencing Other New, Unusual Symptoms Above the Waist and Below the Eyes
Any persistent, new/unusual symptoms that are not resolving but are experienced above the waist and below the eyes could signal a heart attack. "People experience heart pain differently—some notice jaw or tooth pain, some have neck discomfort, some have upper back pain and others have arm pain," says Dr. Klodas. "Just because it's not chest pain doesn't mean it's not a heart attack." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.