How to know if you are experiencing a heart attack

According to Dr Sekar, often people who are affected are not sure what’s wrong and wait too long before seeking help.

Rather than be sudden and intense, most heart attacks start slowly with mild pain or discomfort, according to Dr Ravi Sekar V, a specialist interventional cardiologist at International Modern Hospital in Dubai.

According to Dr Sekar, often people who are affected are not sure what’s wrong and wait too long before seeking help.


A few signs that can tell if a heart attack is happening include discomfort in the centre of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, as well as discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, at the back, neck, jaws or stomach.

Another symptom is shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort, and may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness. Even if one is not sure it’s a heart attack, get it checked. Every minute matters. Prompt action can save a life. Don’t wait for more than five minutes to call an emergency response number.

It is recommended that prevention of heart attack begins by 20 years of age. This means assessing and controlling the risk factors. Heart attack or stroke is fatal or disabling, so prevention is critical. There are some controllable factors that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke such as smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight or obese and physical inactivity. There are several symptoms of heart disease which may lead to a heart attack. Suspect heart disease if you notice that ordinary physical activity causes you to experience: Undue fatigue, palpitations – The sensation that your heart is skipping a beat or beating too rapidly; dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing) or angina (chest pain or discomfort from increased activity).

Additionally, certain tests can be performed to detect presence of atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries. These include non-invasive stress tests (TMT or Stress Echocardiography or Stress Thallium) or CT Coronary Angiography. Gold standard for diagnosis and decision on mode of treatment is conventional angiography that can now be performed even through the wrist for early ambulation of patients.

An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) discovers damage to the heart by making a graphical record of the heart’s electrical activity. Blood testing to detect abnormal levels of certain enzymes in the bloodstream called heart damage markers or cardiac markers.

Time is muscle and the best time to act is the first hour to save maximum heart muscle from damage. Aspirin tablet 325mg is the first intervention that is possible to administer at home on suspecting a heart attack. Another method, thrombolysis, involves injecting a clot-dissolving drug to restore blood flow in the blocked coronary artery. This should be administered within a few (usually three to six) hours of a heart attack at a heart facility.

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