Signs Of A Heart Attack What You Need To Know

early signs of a heart attack
Image taken by Giulia Bertelli

11 Early Warning Signs of a Heart Attack: What You Need to Know


Heart attacks are a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that occur when the blood supply to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. It is estimated that one person is admitted to a UK hospital every five minutes due to a heart attack, making it a significant health concern. However, recognizing the early warning signs can potentially save lives and prevent the condition from worsening.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the 11 early warning signs of a heart attack that can appear months in advance. By being aware of these signs, individuals can seek medical attention, undergo necessary tests, and take preventative action. It’s important to note that while symptoms may vary from person to person, both men and women can experience these warning signs.


  1. Leg Pain

One of the early warning signs of a heart attack is leg pain. If you experience a gripping or cramping sensation in your calves while walking, it’s worth seeing your doctor. This pain can be a marker of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which occurs when there is a reduced blood flow to the legs. Leg pain is particularly common in smokers and individuals with diabetes. If you notice any unusual leg pain, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider.


  1. Arm Pain

Arm pain, especially in the left arm, can be a sign of a heart attack. If you experience pain that radiates down your arm or into your neck, it’s more likely to be heart-related than indigestion. In such cases, it is recommended to call 999 for an ambulance. Additionally, if you have a history of heart disease and have used your GTN (glyceryl trinitrate) spray multiple times without relief, seeking emergency medical advice is crucial.


  1. Swollen Ankles

Swollen ankles should not be ignored, especially if they become significantly enlarged. While swollen ankles can be a marker of heart failure, it is important to note that they can have various other causes as well. Medications, such as blood pressure medication, can also lead to swollen ankles. If you are experiencing persistent swelling in your ankles, it’s advisable to make an appointment with your GP to determine the underlying cause.


  1. Stomach Pain or Indigestion
signs of a heart attack
Image taken by Towfiqu barbhuiya

It may come as a surprise, but stomach pain or indigestion can be a sign of a heart attack or a related heart problem. The close proximity of the heart, gullet, and stomach can make it challenging to differentiate between heart pain and indigestion-type pain. If you experience a burning sensation or indigestion-type pain in your chest or stomach, it’s important to seek medical attention to rule out any potential heart-related issues.


  1. Nausea

While not every bout of nausea indicates a heart attack, if you experience chest pain along with nausea, it’s a cause for concern. Intense chest pain, even when at rest, accompanied by feeling sick, warrants immediate medical attention. It’s crucial to call for an ambulance in such situations. However, if you are experiencing mild discomfort and feeling sick, contacting NHS 111 for advice is recommended.


  1. Night Sweats

Experiencing night sweats after physical activity or on a hot day is normal, but when coupled with chest pains, it can be a sign of a heart-related issue. If you find yourself feeling hot, clammy, and experiencing chest pain, it’s important to call for an ambulance.


  1. Jaw or Back Pain

Contrary to popular belief, the pain associated with a heart attack may not be limited to the chest. Jaw or back pain can also be indicators of a heart attack, especially if the pain does not subside. It is worth noting that women’s symptoms may vary from the classic chest pain, and they may be less likely to seek medical attention. If you experience persistent jaw or back pain, it is advisable to call 999 and request an ambulance.


  1. Choking Sensation

The term “angina” actually means “choking,” and some individuals may experience a tightness or pain in their throat during a heart attack. While this sensation may be benign in many cases, if it continues or if you have other signs listed here, it is safer to call an ambulance. If you have not been previously diagnosed with a heart problem and experience a choking sensation, contacting NHS 111 for further advice is recommended.


  1. Extreme Fatigue

Feeling tired on a regular basis can be a symptom of various conditions, including heart failure. However, if you are experiencing extreme tiredness and your lifestyle has not changed, it’s important to consult with your GP. While tiredness alone may not indicate a heart attack, it’s essential to rule out any underlying heart-related issues.


  1. Irregular Heartbeat

Detecting irregular heartbeats has become a significant focus in recent times. While irregular heartbeats can increase the risk of stroke, it’s important to note that not all irregular heart rhythms are dangerous. In fact, most individuals experience harmless extra ectopic beats. However, if your heart is racing and beating erratically, it’s advisable to consult with your GP. If you experience blackouts along with an irregular heartbeat, calling an ambulance is necessary.


  1. Chest Pain

Chest pain is the classic and most well-known sign of a heart attack. It’s important to recognize that chest pain is a medical emergency. If you experience chest pain accompanied by feeling extremely unwell, it is crucial to dial 999 and request an ambulance immediately. Individuals often describe the pain as a heaviness, tightness, or pressure in the chest—similar to an elephant sitting on their chest or a tight band around their chest. If chest pains occur during exertion but subside when you stop, it may be a sign of angina. In such cases, it is still important to consult with a doctor, but calling 999 may not be necessary.

By being aware of these early warning signs of a heart attack, individuals can take proactive steps towards their heart health. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional if you experience any of these symptoms, as early detection and timely medical intervention can greatly improve outcomes. Remember, if you suspect you or someone else is having a heart attack, do not hesitate to call for emergency medical assistance. Your health and well-being are of utmost importance.

Additional Information: It’s important to note that the early warning signs of a heart attack can vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience multiple symptoms, while others may only exhibit one or two. It is also worth mentioning that certain risk factors, such as age, family history, smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes, can increase the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack. If you have any concerns or questions about your heart health, always consult with a healthcare professional.