Not all people experience the same symptoms or the same severity of symptoms. Some experience no symptoms, others mild, and some have more severe pain. Additionally, symptoms can differ among men and women.
Some common heart attack warning signs include:
As mentioned before, symptoms can differ among everyone, but they also vary among men and women. For men, a heart attack usually begins with a sudden rupture in a coronary artery, leading to a blood clot. Both men and women can experience the typical chest pain, which some describe as pressure that feels like an elephant sitting on their chest.
Many women think the classic symptoms of a heart attack are unmistakable, but heart attacks in women can be more subtle and confusing. Women are more likely to experience silent heart attack symptoms, like indigestion, nausea, and shortness of breath, often chalking them out to be less life-threatening conditions. Some women who have experienced a heart attack report feeling upper back pressure that feels like squeezing or a rope being tied around them. Women should also be on the lookout for lightheadedness or fainting as other warning signs.
In order to diagnose your heart attack, our emergency care team at Banner will ask about your symptoms in order to begin evaluation. Heart attack diagnosis is based on the symptoms you experienced and your test results. These tests will help treat you quickly in order to limit heart muscle damage.
The electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is used to visualize what damage has occurred to your heart muscle and where it has occurred. The EKG can also monitor your heart rate and rhythm.
An echocardiography is an imaging test that can be used during and after a heart attack. This test determines how the heart is pumping and what areas are not pumping normally. It can also tell if any structures of the heart have been injured after a heart attack.
Your doctor may draw blood to measure your levels of cardiac enzymes. These enzymes indicate heart muscle damage. Cardiac enzymes are usually found inside the cells of your heart. After a heart attack, injured muscle cells (including enzymes) are released into your bloodstream. Measuring the levels of these enzymes helps your doctor determine the size of the heart attack and when it started. Troponins may also be measured when blood tests are taken. These proteins are found inside heart cells and are released when they are damaged by the lack of blood supply to the heart. Troponin detection in blood may indicate a heart attack.
Cardiac catheterizations, or cardiac caths, are sometimes used during the first hours of a heart attack if medications are not relieving the symptoms. The cardiac cath is used to visualize the blocked artery and help your doctor determine the appropriate procedure for the blockage.