Heart attack symptoms can be swift and sharp, commonly taking the form of agonising chest pain. However, there are a range of symptoms that are more subtle than chest pain and knowing them can ensure you take appropriate action. It is hard to overemphasise the importance of acting on the warning signs – delays can inflict irreversible damage on the heart muscle.
As health body St John Ambulance notes, if your lips have a blue tinge, it can indicate you’re having a heart attack.
Another slightly more subtle symptom that the health body draws attention to is a “rapid, weak or irregular pulse”.
Other telltale signs include:
- Have crushing pain in the centre of their chest, that may spread to their jaw, and down one or both arms
- be breathless or gasping for breath
- Be sweating profusely
- experience pain similar to indigestion
- collapse without warning
- complain of dizziness
- Have a feeling of impending doom.
How to respond
It’s important you get medical attention immediately.
“Don’t worry about wasting paramedics’ time – a heart attack is a medical emergency,” warns the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
According to the BHF, the key steps are:
- Call 999 for an ambulance
- Sit down and stay calm
- Take a 300mg aspirin if you have one within reach
- Wait for the paramedics.
According to the BHF, people often dismiss that they’re having a heart attack and will delay seeking medical attention.
“If you’re with someone who’s experiencing heart attack symptoms but they’re putting off or refusing to call an ambulance, it’s really important that you call one for them.”
How prevent a heart
Making lifestyle changes is the most effective way to prevent having a heart attack (or having another heart attack).
Improving your diet is one of the main buffers against cardiovascular complications.
That’s because “eating an unhealthy diet that is high in fat will make hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) worse and increase your risk of a heart attack”, explains the NHS.
According to the health body, continuing to eat high-fat foods will cause more fatty plaques to build up in your arteries.
“This is because fatty foods contain an unhealthy type of cholesterol,” it explains.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can clog up your arteries, making it more likely that you will experience a blockage.
The worst culprits for cholesterol build-up are foods high in saturated fat.
“Saturated fats are the type that raise blood cholesterol,” warns cholesterol charity Heart UK.
Many foods contain saturated fat. They’re found in animal foods, such as meat, butter and other dairy products, and foods that are made with them, such as cakes and biscuits.
They’re also found in some plant foods including coconut oil and palm oil.
“Cutting down on foods high in saturated fat and replacing them with foods with more unsaturated fat can help improve cholesterol level,” notes Heart UK.
“Go for healthy spreads, oily fish, nuts, seeds and cooking and salad oils.”