What does a heart attack feel like? Survivors share symptoms, key points to know


Heart attack ends your life; it stops the heart beat all of a sudden. This is what people assume it to be. While this is partially correct, the other half of the truth lies in the symptoms that are seen just before and/or during a heart attack. And it is this part of the truth that can actually save a life.

Usually the victims of a heart attack are unable to figure out if they are having an attack. It is partly because they are not aware of the signs and symptoms associated with it and partly because of the panic.

It is crucial to know the symptoms of a heart attack so that you know that it is what it is.

“I became unusually tired, breathless and started to sweat a lot”
Dave Park, a Quora user, has shared what he had felt during the heart attack he had 5 years before.

“I was doing my first mow of the back yard for 2017. I’d mowed the front and was about half way through the back yard. Over about five minutes I became unusually tired, breathless and started to sweat a LOT. I stopped mowing and thought about how out of shape I’d become. I started the mower again and in the next minute it got interesting,” he writes.

“My sweating and breathlessness increased even more. An oppressive pain, like a huge rock on my chest, took over. It was a steady, continuous pain. I realized I also had a terrible ache in my middle back, and then it radiated out to the backs of my arms – slightly more on the left than the right,” he says about his signs and writes that following this he collapsed on the floor and asked his wife to take him to the emergency room.

Within 45 minutes he was out of pain and was admitted to a hospital room. “Over this time my BP fell from 185/125 and HR of 160+ to a BP of 150/110 and HR of 120+. They had drawn blood at regular intervals and saw my cardiac troponin levels were rising. This is indicative of a heart attack. They decided to lower my heart rate and blood pressure. Drugs and a nitroglycerin IV were started,” he says.

Park says he got an oppressive headache for two and a half days due to the vasodilator. “It being a holiday weekend, I was moved again to ICU and monitored while they found a balance of drugs that would keep my blood pressure low but not too low. If it goes too low I was told I could suffer organ damage. The nitroglycerin is a vasodilator. It expands blood vessels and lowers BP,” he writes.

“You only get acetaminophen for the headache. This headache lasted from when they started the drip until an hour after they stopped it – two and a half days. Acetaminophen does not help the headache. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, the headache is worse. I drink coffee, so it was miserable,” he adds.

Park recalls how the surgeon opened up his femoral artery right by the groin and ran a wire up to find the suspected blood vessel in my heart.

“Finally the surgeon said, “It can’t be his left anterior, could it?” They jiggled and wiggled and stopped. They got real quiet. “Wow.” It was 95% blocked. Right at the junction. They installed a hybrid stent. My heart function immediately improved to almost normal. On the way out the surgeon told me that for every one person my age with this specific blockage there were twenty or more in the morgue, and I was incredibly lucky,” he writes.

“My experience was totally different”
Susan Long, another Quora user, writes that heart attack symptoms which she experienced were different.

“Home alone at 11 PM, I had a mild indigestion bubble slightly above my left breast. I tried to walk it out and belch. It didn’t work. I tried lying down. The little bubble moved almost to my throat but I couldn’t belch it out,” she writes.

“Then I started to sweat profusely. Mopped the sweat w/a paper towel and the sweating got worse. I knew something was wrong and suspected a heart attack. So, I called 911. Ambulance came, loaded me up and gave me nitro. Sweating quit. Paramedic said my symptoms sounded like female heart attack symptoms. Notice—i never said I had pain or pressure. If the sweating hadn’t been so profuse, I wouldn’t have called 911,” she adds.

She had a blockage in the left primary artery feeder and underwent cardiac catheterization in which two stents were put in her.

“I still thought it was gastro related but painful enough to drive to the ER”
“I am 38 and thought I was pretty healthy until I had a heart attack 6 months ago. It felt like something was stuck in my sternum area and caused minor discomfort. I woke up the next day with an excruciating pressure and pain in the same spot, I still thought it was gastro related but painful enough to drive to the ER,” writes Frank Scott.

“They let me sit for about 20 minutes because I didn’t seem serious enough to them. Turned out I was having a major heart attack and received a stent 30 minutes later, then a full bypass surgery 3 days later. Om1 was 95% and LAD was 85%,” Frank adds.

“The feeling is an intense pain that doesn’t get any better no matter how you move or what you do. People die all the time thinking it is gastro and trying to get through it. Go to the ER and just tell them chest pain so they take you seriously according to their protocol,” he also adds.

Dave Park’s answer is available on Quora and has around 1.2 million views so far. “THIS POST is what made me see my physician. I have been putting it off for years. So far, so good, but it will be nice to know that I’ve been checked out. Thank you,” a Quora user has thanked Park.

Heart attack symptoms vary in men and women
Experts say the symptoms associated with heart attacks vary for men and women. While in men the classic symptoms like chest pain is seen, women experience atypical symptoms like shortness of breath, back pain, indigestion, etc. Sometimes women do not even experience chest pain as a result of which they ignore even if it is a heart attack.

Symptoms associated with heart attack seen in both men and women are: chest pain, discomfort in chest, nausea, tightness in jaw, burning sensation in chest, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue, and sweating.

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