By Dr Khushboo Shah Sawant
In the previous segment we covered the various factors that can increase a person’s chances of a heart disease. The more the number of factors that are in play, the more the chances of a heart disease. This means a person’s chances of suffering from a heart disease are directly proportional to the number of factors that he/she is at risk. So it is very important to face the reality and take enough care and try to remain as fit as possible.
It is often seen that people do not like to come to terms with the fact that they are old enough or ill enough to be suffering from a heart disease and try to put off preventive care, as a form of denial. This may be one of the worst things to do, as often conditions may be treatable in the initial stages, rather than they becoming serious heart trouble which can even lead to sudden death. However, in case there may be an impending heart disease episode, the body tends to give out warning signals in various forms. It is extremely important to pay heed to these warning signs, as they may save a person’s life if medical attention is given well in time.
An impending heart attack can cause intense anxiety, or fear of death. It often appears along with increased heart beat and sensation of fear. A person may feel uncomfortable in a perfectly routine environment with chest pain being the most important symptom to watch out for. A typical heart attack related chest pain will often begin in the centre, under the breast bone, a little towards the left side. The pain is massive as if a huge weight is being pressed upon the chest. However in some cases, the pain may not appear in the typical form and often may present itself as mild to moderate discomfort around the chest. It may also appear as pain in other parts of the body, like the left shoulder region with the pain traveling all the way through the left arm up to the little finger. Sometimes, the pain may begin in the chest and spread to the shoulders, back, neck, jaw or abdomen. Such pain may often come and go. A heart attack may also present itself in the form of a burning sensation rather than a pain in the chest. People often mistake such a burning sensation to be arising from the stomach and assume it to be a stomach problem like hyper-acidity or a reflux and often try to treat it themselves by household treatments for acidity.
A persistent cough or wheezing in the chest could also be a symptom of impending heart failure. This is caused due to fluid accumulation in the lungs. In some cases there even may be blood in the cough. This again can be mistaken for a respiratory illness. A heart attack can cause dizziness or loss of consciousness. A person may feel lightheaded and imbalanced. Fatigue is also another symptom of a heart attack, seen especially in women. This may be a symptom, seen days or even weeks before a heart attack can occur. Of course, a person can be fatigued due to various obvious reasons as well, but in case of fatigue which is unusual or uncalled for, it could be a warning signal. Feeling tired all the time could be a symptom of a heart failure.
Also a heart attack may not present itself in the most typical and expected forms. A person having a heart attack could even present with gastric symptoms like, nausea and loss of appetite. It is fairly common for a person having a heart attack to feel nauseous or even vomit. Also an abdominal swelling can be associated with heart failure, where the appetite may be lost because of the swelling. Rapid or irregular pulse when noted in a person along with dizziness or shortness of breath can be a sign of a heart attack, or heart failure and so. should not be ignored.
Shortness of breath at the slightest exertion is another sign of heart attack. It could be due any respiratory condition, but breathlessness may also indicate heart attack. During a heart attack, breathlessness often accompanies the pain in chest, but it can occur before a heart attack or even without any chest discomfort. If a person walks barely 10 steps but gets extremely breathless or feels heaviness in the chest, it could indicate a heart disease.
Breaking out into cold beads of sweat is also a symptom of a heart attack. A person could be even in a cool and comfortable environment and still be perspiring profusely. Such a symptom should never be ignored as it can herald shortness of breath.
In case of heart failure, unlike a heart attack, there tends to a lot of fluid accumulation in the body. This can present itself in the form of swelling, often seen in the lower body especially the feet, ankles, legs, or even the abdomen. It could also cause weight gain, sometimes along with loss of appetite. Weakness also could be present as a symptom of a heart disease, especially unexplained and severe weakness.
It can be seen that heart disease may often present typically or in the most unexpected ways. And so it is very important for a person to be well aware of the risk factors he has, and pay close attention to the body’s signs and signals. In case a person feels one or more of the above signs and symptoms, it is best to visit a doctor immediately. It may probably not always mean a heart attack, but as goes the adage, ‘a stitch in time, saves nine’. (Concluded)