It’s Not a Heart Attack … Is It?

WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY where the words ‘heart attack’ are often used as a joke or to express shock over a sudden, unexpected event. For instance, how many times have you or someone you know said, “What are you trying to do – give me a heart attack?” or “I just about had a heart attack!” There is another common phrase, however, that hits a little closer to the truth. That phrase is “serious as a heart attack.” Though we often say this to emphasize a point, the fact is, a heart attack is very serious.

Even though we know this, many of us still run ourselves ragged, continue an unhealthy lifestyle or ignore symptoms that could put our very lives at risk. We push our hearts to the limit daily, somehow thinking that it won’t happen to us.

The fact of the matter is though, that every 39 seconds, someone dies from a heart-related health issue. Thirty-nine seconds! That’s less time than it takes to reheat last night’s leftovers in the microwave, drive two blocks through your neighborhood or update your Facebook status. Any one of us could be stricken by a heart attack as we’re just going about our normal, daily activities.

So, why aren’t more deaths prevented? Aside from changing lifestyle habits for an overall healthier balance, the answer is that many people still don’t know the signs of a heart attack or ignore them until it’s too late.

You probably know that chest pain can indicate a heart attack, but did you know that you won’t necessarily feel like there is “an elephant sitting on your chest”? Though people often describe a heart attack as crushing pain in their chest, other kinds of pain can signal serious problems as well. You may feel pressure or even just fullness in the center of your chest –and it may not stay long enough for you to think you need to be concerned. Even if the pain comes and goes, however, your heart may be trying to tell you that it needs help.

The next time that you’re rushing to a business meeting, trying to get the house in order with several energetic children destroying everything you just put back in place, stepping up your defense–determined to score or poring over your financial troubles for the umpteenth time, you might also want to keep in mind that stress on your heart doesn’t always come in the form of chest pain.

If you have pain in either one of your arms, your neck or back, your stomach or along your jaw, it might not be from that cavity you keep ignoring, the snack-fest you indulged in last night, your lumpy mattress or those boxes you hauled up two flights of stairs; you could actually be experiencing a heart attack. And though you may be thinking your shortness of breath is just leftover exhaustion from your Zumba class or the rush to make it to the bank before they closed, this too is another sign that you should seek medical help.

Of course, the best way to avoid ever finding yourself in one of these situations is to have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked annually –or semi-annually if your doctor has a concern, to eat healthy and to exercise. Even so, nobody is guaranteed a free pass when it comes to heart attacks, so it’s important to learn and memorize the signs of a heart attack.

If you do, the next time your boss snaps at you, you get bad news for the third time inside a week, your children have you running in circles or you feel the pressure of life closing in on you, you’ll be able to determine if it’s just normal, everyday stress that can be relieved with a workout or a bubble bath or if your heart is headed for serious trouble.


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