February is American Heart Month, a time when the nation spotlights heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.
Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease and the main cause of heart attack. There’s no better time than now to spread awareness about the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Dominick Angiolillo, MD, PhD, FACC, chief of the division of cardiology and medical director of the UF Health Cardiovascular Center – Jacksonville, discusses what you need to know, including the importance of early action.
Watch for warning signs
A heart attack can happen because one of the blood vessels that feed the heart muscle becomes clogged by a blood clot. Time is crucial when it comes to heart attacks. The longer you wait to address symptoms, the more damage can be done to the heart. Typically, heart attack symptoms include:
- Chest pain, which can be as severe as feeling like an elephant is sitting on your chest
- Pain that travels up to your jaw and down your left arm
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms can differ
It’s important to know that not all people experience the same symptoms. Differences can occur between genders and in those who have diabetes. Atypical symptoms include the following:
- Heavy sweating — especially cold sweats
- Upset stomach or indigestion
Women tend to experience an upset stomach, indigestion and nausea more than men. The most common symptom for both men and women is chest discomfort.
When to seek help
No matter how mild or severe the symptoms feel, always head straight to the emergency room or call 911. Do not waste any time seeking help, as heart attacks cannot be self-treated. Even if you think it’s something else, go get it checked out, especially if you are having a consistent upset stomach and indigestion. Taking four baby aspirin can be helpful, so keep those handy while en route to the hospital.
Prevention is key
While knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack is important, you can reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack by following these healthy habits:
UF Health Cardiology in Jacksonville includes internationally recognized physicians who are leaders in cardiac care, research and education. Visit UFHealthJax.org/cardiology/locations to find a location near you and schedule an appointment.