Not to freak you out, but in Canada, someone has a heart attack every seven minutes and most of us have no idea how to tell that it’s happening. While 75 per cent of Canadians will tell you that they definitely know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, only 10 per cent can actually prove it when tested. Since heart disease is something that we’re learning more and more about and we all know that it’s not limited to the old, the overweight and the sedentary, maybe it’s about time we learned how to recognize the signs for real.
First things first, did you know symptoms present themselves differently in men and women? Men have those “textbook” signs of a heart attack, like you see in all the movies, but women have much more subtle symptoms which can prove to be far more dangerous. Heart disease is the number one reason for premature death among Canadian women for that reason.
Men: Heart Attack Symptoms
- Chest pain, discomfort, tightness, heaviness, pressure or squeezing
- Shortness of breath
- Skin turning grey in colour
- Nausea or sick to the stomach
- Pain in shoulder, neck, jaw or left arm
Women (also elderly and diabetics): Heart Attack Symptoms
The symptoms for women (and also the elderly and diabetics) are far more likely to be ignored or dismissed as something else since they can present in so many ways. Sometimes women may have no pain at all and only feel a vague weakness or dizziness. That’s why knowing the symptoms and being able to put them together is so important. Bottom line: don’t hesitate to take even mild symptoms seriously and call 911.
- Less severe chest pain than men
- Indigestion type feeling or band of tightness under their bra
- Upper back pain (around the shoulder blade area)
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or shortness of breath
Okay, now what?
Once, you’ve discerned (or think you’ve discerned) that you or someone else is having a heart attack, you need to know how to spring into action to save a life. According to real life paramedic Janice Steele, these are the steps to take right away before the paramedics get there.
- Call 911. Immediately.
- Seriously. Don’t wait for the pain to go away. Call 911. Time is muscle and every minute you delay treatment, the more heart muscle is becoming irreparably damaged.
- Chew two (2) 81 mg Aspirin tablets into a fine paste and then swallow them.
- You should have Aspirin not only in your house, but also in your purse, car, at work or any other place you (or someone else) might need one. You won’t necessarily be in the comfort of your home when a heart attack strikes.
- Follow the instructions of the emergency dispatcher on the phone and don’t put more strain on the heart than there is already. If you’re having the heart attack, don’t move around too much and try to remain calm. If it’s someone else, keep them and those around them calm and keep an eye out for paramedics.