New research has found seven major symptoms that may indicate a pending heart attack. Image / Getty Images
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. In New Zealand, 16 kiwis die a day from CVD.
Some of these will include a heart attack, which new research has found can begin with seven tell-tale symptoms that appear about a month before a person suffers this serious medical event.
Researchers from the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, published in the medical journal Circulation, found that 95 percent of study participants had a common set of symptoms before a heart attack:
- Sleep Disorders
- Weak or heavy arms or legs
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in thought processes
48 percent of participants reported suffering from a sleep disorder leading to a heart attack, while 42 percent experienced shortness of breath.
Attacks of indigestion were noted in 39 percent of people evaluated in the study, and 35.5 percent reported symptoms of anxiety.
Meanwhile, just under a quarter of those who took part in the study reported weak or heavy arms or legs, and just over a fifth found they had a loss of appetite.
And 23.9 percent of participants reported a change in their thinking.
Dr Anushka Patchava, deputy chief medical officer at UK insurer Vitality, spoke to The Sun about the symptoms before a heart attack, noting that they generally indicate problems with oxygen in the body.
She explained that a patient’s reported feeling of weakness in their limbs comes from decreased circulation, while any heaviness, pain or pressure in the chest can be a sign that your heart is not getting enough oxygenated blood.
She added: “Other symptoms of cardiovascular disease can be shortness of breath, palpitations (when someone feels their heart beating).
“This can lead to anxiety, hot sweats and dizziness and feeling faint, as well as fatigue. All signs that the body is not getting enough oxygen.
“In moderate and severe vascular diseases, it is also possible that the individual may experience swelling of the limbs. Extremities such as your toes or fingers may turn blue, which can be a potential sign that you are having a heart attack.
“While chest pain is the most common symptom, other symptoms such as shortness of breath, feeling sick or sick, and back or jaw pain may also occur.”
Dr Patchava also told The Sun that to understand cardiovascular disease, it can help to look at it from two parts: Cardio, which refers to conditions affecting the heart as an organ, and vascular, which includes conditions related to the blood vessels in the body.
“Narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, for example due to plaque build-up, a condition called atherosclerosis, can contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension).
“Blocked blood vessels can then lead to a heart attack or stroke if the heart or brain is deprived of oxygen, with coronary heart disease being the leading cause of heart attack,” she said.
For those looking to reduce their chances of CVD, Patchava says the first thing to do is make sure you’re a non-smoker.
Being overweight and drinking too much alcohol are also contributing factors, as are high cholesterol and diabetes.
For some, changes in work and lifestyle may help if the individual attributes high levels of stress to their work and personal situation.
“High stress can lead to high blood pressure, which causes CVD and contributes to heart attacks,” Patchava says, adding that “physical activity or taking care of your mental well-being through techniques like mindfulness and meditation” are ways to alleviate these stresses.
Genetics can also play a role, with the chances of CVD increasing if a close family member has a history.
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