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Hours before a heart attack can be telling

A recent study by the University of Berlin said that people are often forewarned, sometimes several hours before, about a heart attack.
A recent study by the University of Berlin said that people are often forewarned, sometimes several hours before, about a heart attack. The study suggests that recognising some of the symptoms � persistent chest pain, unexplained breathlessness, dizziness, sweating and vomiting � which might be the body's way of giving you a warning is the first step towards treatment.
Sudden cardiac arrest : Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping blood abruptly. This happens when non-critical blockages in the heart arteries rupture resulting in clot formation and abrupt cessation of blood flow.
"Blocks in arteries are normal in the ageing process and starts from the age of 20. When these blocks burst open, they expose the underlying fatty tissues. This causes clotting, resulting in a sudden cardiac arrest. This can occur any time and recognising the symptoms is difficult but crucial," says Dr Sudhir Vaishnav, interventional cardiologist, Asian Hearth Institute Research Centre, Mumbai. "Typically, the symptoms show up 20 minutes to a few hours before the attack."
Chest discomfort
Patients experience chest discomfort or pain in the centre of the chest or all across the chest. This feels like there's pressure or squeezing as if there's a weight on the chest. The patient will not be to pinpoint the source of the pain; it is a diffused discomfort or pain and lasts for at least 20 minutes.
This pain is usually confused with muscular or gastric-related pain but the biggest differentiator is that while muscular or gastric pain fluctuates, this kind of chest pain is constant. Further, if a patient exerts himself, the symptom is aggravated.
Radiating pain: Sometimes the pain, rather than occurring in the chest, can occur in the left arm, right arm, neck, jaws, stomach or tooth. Patients with hyper-acidity may experience a burning sensation in the chest. The symptoms may get aggravated with exertion.
Says Dr Vaishnav, "If there is no logical explanation for the pain, such as acidity due to eating certain food or consumption of antibiotics, you can assume that there is a heart problem."
Breathlessness, dizziness: Breathless and dizziness could be symptoms of a cardiac arrest but distinguishing them can be difficult. For these too, there should be a logical explanation, such as exertion, behind the symptoms. "All these symptoms will be accompanied by other symptoms such pain during walking, discomfort in the chest after meals and slight chest discomfort," says Dr Vaishnav.
Vomiting, sweating: Diabetics or elderly women must be alert to unexplained vomiting, sweating or giddiness. "In fact, women have more malignant type of heart problems and the fatality rate is higher. They are usually protected until menopause, due to certain hormones, but afterward they are as much at risk as men," says Dr Vaishnav.
What do you do?: If you suspect you are having a heart attack, don't wait for the doctor, just go to the closest ICCU and get an ECG done.
However, before medical help arrives, patients can take an aspirin tablet with a little water or keep a sorbitrate tablet below the tongue. Bystanders or family members can also administer cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). "Most people refuse to acknowledge or recognise the symptoms because they believe that they are fit. It can occur anytime to anybody," says Dr Vaishnav.

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