Q&A

Is all chest pain a heart attack?

No. Angina is one very common type of chest pain. It usually lasts only a few minutes and can be a recurring discomfort. An angina attack can be brought on when your heart doesn’t get the blood and oxygen that it needs. Angina is different from a heart attack in that it doesn’t cause permanent damage. (Because of anatomical location near the heart, chest pain is often due to gall bladder dysfunction).

 

What is a heart attack?

In order to survive the heart muscle needs oxygen. When the blood flow to the heart is severely reduced or cut off completely a heart attack occurs due to lack of oxygen. The reduced blood flow can be caused by the slow buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque. The slow buildup of plaque is known at atherosclerosis. A blood clot will form when arterial plaque breaks away from the vessel wall which can then block the blood flow through this particular vessel of the heart.

 

Why didn’t I have any heart attack warning signs?

The slow buildup of plaque has no symptoms. Other nearby vessels that bring blood to the heart can sometimes compensate for the vessel with plaque. Collateral circulation, the network of expanded vessels, help to protect some people from heart attacks and can also develop after a heart attack to help the heart recover.

 

Is there any test to determine plaque buildup in the arteries?

Yes. A carotid artery screening which is a non-invasive, 10 minute ultrasound serves to identify how you are predisposed to developing atherosclerosis throughout your body. So if you display plaque in your carotid arteries you are quite likely to harbor plaque in the rest of your arterial system as well. Invasive procedures are usually done in the hospital to confirm non-invasive ultrasound studies or urgently if you have an emergency or arrive by ambulance.

The Baseline Medical screening for heart disease is not risky at all. And of course, is best performed before you have any symptoms. This way you can avoid the more risky invasive procedures after you have the heart attack or stroke.

 

Is heart disease the same for men and women?

No. The symptoms for women and men can be different.

 

What are the most common signs of a heart attack?

  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

In women the symptoms can be experienced as

  • Unusual fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Indigestion
  • Anxiety
  • Racing heart
  • Arm weakness for up to a month prior to a heart attack.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most start slowly. Often people don’t recognize the symptoms and wait too long before getting help.

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