The phrase “serious as a heart attack” carries strong weight for a reason: it’s one of the most terrifying medical emergencies someone can encounter. We’re all aware that if it’s not addressed immediately or prevented, the results can be fatal. For this reason, it’s important to know the symptoms associated with a pending heart attack, and to get medical attention right away to avoid the worst outcome.
Chest pain is the most common early symptom. This can come and go, and feel like pain or just simply discomfort or a heaviness in the chest. Shortness of breath can accompany this sensation as well. You may also experience discomfort or pain in extremities like the jaw, arms or neck.
If you’re experiencing a number of these symptoms, it’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible. The American Heart Association recommends getting to an emergency room right away, and/or calling 911 to get an ambulance. This is particularly important if you are older, or have other complications that put you at a high risk for a heart attack.
If you are younger and otherwise relatively healthy, some of these symptoms are similar to a panic attack (it is remarkable how many people go to the ER mistaking panic as a heart attack). Pleurisy and pericarditis can also be mistaken for a heart attack. While you don’t want to ignore your body’s signals, it’s also important to keep your age and medical history in mind.
Getting an annual physical is the best way to keep tabs on your overall health, and take the correct preventative steps. Your doctor can run a number of tests, including an EKG, to assess your risk.