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A cardiologist's guide to understanding heart attacks

Watch out for the signs that alert you about a month before a heart attack

Published: 12th December 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th December 2021 05:05 PM   |  A+A-

Your body can assess signs and symptoms of an impending heart attack.

Your body can assess signs and symptoms of an impending heart attack.

Express News Service

Need a doctor? Turn to yourself. Your body is your first physician. It can assess signs and symptoms of an impending heart attack. “This is true of most health conditions, but especially a heart attack,” shares Dr Nityanand Tripathi, Director and Unit Head, Cardiology and Electrophysiology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi. The thing you should be watching out for is this:

Keep an eye on exhaustion. This is not the usual kind that you may feel after long hours of work or travel. “The main characteristic is that it is sudden and unexplained. It takes over every part of your being,” says Tripathi. The tiredness could make you irritable. Sleep goes for a toss. Women tend to suffer more. A study reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, seconds this. It said that women who had heart attacks, complained of severe fatigue as one of the common symptoms that appeared a month or so before the cardiac event. 

Insomnia comes next on the list of warning signs. Ask yourself three questions: Do you have trouble falling or/and staying asleep? Do you wake up in the wee hours of the morning and cannot go back to sleep? It is difficult to stay focused during the day because of disturbed sleep? Those who experience all three chronically are 22 percent more prone to coronary artery disease, says the finding of a study published in Neurology, a journal of the American Academy of Neurology.  

Another early sign of a heart attack that alerts you about a month before an attack is excessive sweating. Your skin may feel clammy, there may be hot flashes, or you may perspire profusely, especially during the night. “This happens because pumping blood through clogged arteries stresses out the body. It starts sweating more to keep the body temperature at the optimum level,” explains Tripathi, adding, “Women may mistake this for an effect of menopause.”

Shortness of breath can be an equally important sign to keep track of. When your heart is unable to pump blood adequately to the other organs of your body, feeling short of breath will show up at some point or the other. It will get worse progressively. If small, little chores leave you breathless, you might want to call your doctor.

What you should do during a heart attack if you’re by yourself

✥ Always have a couple of SOS numbers fed into your phone. These should be easily assessable on your home screen. If you are a heart patient living by yourself, don’t put a passcode.
✥ Take an aspirin. Run an allergy test in advance to make sure you’re not allergic to it, especially if you have a history of allergies or heart issues. Always keep some water near you when alone. You don’t want to have to run to the kitchen during an emergency.
✥ Do not put pressure on the chest by constantly pressing or rubbing it 



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