December 20, 2008

December 20, 2008
How to Tell If You Are Having a Heart Attack

Welcome to my weekend and another day in my life. I hope you are having a great one yourself.

This time of year is super busy for everyone. From working, shopping, parties, dinner parties, charity events and traveling to our Christmas destinations; Christmas is the busiest time of the year for most.

Some of you are traveling this weekend and I wish you safe and happy travels. May the holiday bring you all the happiness you deserve.

Most of you know I have had two strokes and one heart attack in the past several years. I get asked a lot of questions through the website and many tend to be about heart attacks and strokes.

So today I thought I would publish and answer one of those questions.

Q: This might sound weird, but I am worried about my husband having a heart attack and I seem to remember an old wives’ tale about smelling burnt toast when you’re having a heart attack. What are the real signs?

A: Those old wives are always up to something! I think it is wonderful that you are looking after your husband’s health. Research has shown that people in long-term committed relationships tend to be healthier, and part of this must be the result of a little concerned nagging.

I am most familiar with the “burnt toast” tale in the setting of stroke. Olfactory hallucinations are not an uncommon warning sign that something is going on in the brain. While I’ve never heard a patient mention this in relation to a heart attack, it’s plausible that if a heart attack severely disrupted flow of blood to the brain that such a hallucination could occur.

However, you’d want to prevent a heart attack long before it ever got to this point. The common warning signs of a heart attack are:

1. Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

2. Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Keep in mind that most heart attacks are not as dramatic and intense as Hollywood would have us believe. Mild symptoms are the norm and often the reason that people fail to get timely treatment.

So remember to not stress the small things in life. You will not only live longer but be happier in the process.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab