When we see a heart attack depicted on television, it has all of the telltale signs: a man clenching his chest and falling to the floor in excruciating pain. While it makes for good drama, not all heart attacks look or feel the same. It’s important to be able to recognize the many signs of a heart attack, even when those symptoms are remarkably subtle.
From dizziness to cold sweats, here’s a list of five of the most surprising signs of a heart attack:
1. Jaw, Neck or Back Pain
When women experience a heart attack, signs and symptoms can be quite different than those experienced by men. One surprising symptom is jaw, neck or back pain. According to a statement issued by the American Heart Association, if the heart is sending out not-so-good signals, pain can radiate to a few different areas, like the jaw, neck or back. Experts aren’t quite sure why women suffering from heart attacks often feel this pain while men do not.
2. Cold Sweats
Another surprising heart attack symptom, cold sweats, happen when the human body suddenly begins sweating–without the traditional exertion or exposure to heat that causes perspiration. Cold sweats can indicate a variety of medical conditions, including but not limited to infection, low blood sugar, anxiety… and heart attack.
Nausea is another heart attack symptom you’ve probably never heard of. Nausea and vomiting are more frequently experienced by women who are having heart attacks, but they can happen to people of any gender.
If you have unexplained nausea or vomiting, don’t dismiss it. Seek help right away.
4. Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath doesn’t need to be accompanied by chest pain to be symptomatic of a heart attack. While angina (chest pain) is the most common sign of a heart attack for both men and women, some people will have no other symptoms of an emergency other than trouble breathing. Inexplicable shortness of breath should be taken seriously, and not written off as anxiety or nervousness.
5. Dizziness and Lightheadedness
If you or a loved one is suddenly dizzy or lightheaded, seek medical attention right away.
While there are other, less serious reasons why you might not feel quite right (like dehydration, side effects from medication or low blood sugar), it’s important to call for help, especially if your wooziness don’t go right away.
Hopefully, this list of surprising heart attack symptoms helped you feel empowered, not scared. While anyone can have a heart attack, there are certain factors that raise your risk of having one. Some risk factors for a heart attack can’t be changed, like your age, gender or genetics. Other major risk factors, like high cholesterol and smoking, can be addressed. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, physical inactivity, being overweight or obese and having diabetes. Stress and poor nutrition play a part, too.
The good news is that more and more research is being done on how to prevent heart attacks. One promising study is looking into klotho proteins, which may have the potential to prevent a heart attack.
Talk to your doctor about whether you’re at risk for a heart attack, and what you can do to stay heart healthy.