Medically Reviewed by Anne H. Everman, MD
Some heart problems provide lots of warnings signs. Others don’t, which is why you need to recognize symptoms quickly. McLeod Cardiologist Anne Everman, M.D., explains the changes to look for:
Here’s a summary of Dr. Everman’s comments:
Progressive atherosclerosis is a build up that happens slowly over time and progressively worsens. This means that you might have symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath running up a flight of stairs. Then, you might get it running to catch a train or running to catch a bus. And then you might get it just walking around your house.
But these progressive symptoms give us time to find and focus on the problem. This is the kind of angina that stress tests pick up. It’s a treatable kind of atherosclerosis.
Then, there’s that person you’ve heard about. They had the stress test. They just saw their doctor and they were doing well. Never had a problem, ran marathons and no chest pain symptoms. Then they come into an Emergency Department with a heart attack.
This can be concerning because you’re not going to feel these blockages. You have plenty of blood flow. A stress test is not going to pick it up. Then, a small piece of plaque breaks off. You get a leaking of the things that are in that plaque. Then a blood clot breaks loose, blocks off the artery and cuts off blood to the heart.
So, there are no symptoms that predate this type of heart attack. This is why we need to talk about prevention because we are not going to find this, you are not going to feel it, and we don’t have tests to pick it up.
There are the typical symptoms. We call it the “movie heart attack,” you know where people clutch their chest, can’t breathe and fall to their knees. This does happen in women. However, there are also atypical symptoms. It can be pain in your neck, jaw, back or in your stomach. It can be nausea with a lot of sweating. Unfortunately, a heart attack is the first presenting sign of any heart disease in about 30 percent of women.