Most of us have been touched somehow by heart disease or heart attack. Whether it was a parent, loved one or a friend, the number of people affected by heart problems in Australia is second to none.
The average heart attack victim in Australia is 60-65 years old. It sounds pretty ominous to all the 60 year olds out there reading this, doesn’t it?
We’re shocked by stories of younger people who’ve had heart attacks because their stories stand out as unusual and tragic, but the fact is, heart attack is the leading single cause of death in Australia today in our age bracket. One way we can help reduce these figures is to know and look out for the symptoms, and most importantly, act fast.
The reason we obsess about heart health in the medical profession is that we often lose too many people to heart attacks, and those who we don’t lose often experience unpleasant side effects such as reduced mobility and capability.
The most common signs of heart problems are the ones we are more familiar with. And they should not be ignored.
One of the most common and well known symptoms of a heart attack is severe, crushing pain in the left side of your chest that can travel down the left arm and up the left side of the neck.
This is the typical type of pain associated with a heart attack, and whilst it is the most obvious sign, not all heart trouble shows up with this symptom. There’s also a range of other, signs and symptoms that you should keep an eye out for as well including:
1) Your exercise tolerance has got a little worse and you are finding yourself abnormally puffed out. It could be that you just seem to get short of breath when you take a few extra steps, or it may be that you are doing your usual daily walk, but walking up the hill seems to get you a lot more short of breath than it used to.
If this occurs, it is important to talk to your doctor as it could be a sign of a heart problem.
2) You feel chest pain on the right side of the chest, pain in your jaw, or pain in between your shoulder blades. If you’re exercising and experience any of these symptoms, there could be a problem with your heart and it is important that you take swift action.
3) …Or you experience a series of non-specific symptoms that only happen when exercising or exerting yourself. Severe pain in the left of your chest, nausea or breathlessness can be key signs of heart problems, and if any of them appear, particularly in a rapid way, you should listen to your body and seek medical attention.
What should you do?
If you are getting a sudden onset of chest pain associated with breathlessness and nausea call an ambulance on triple zero (000). The unfortunate fact in Australia today is that 50% of Australians who have a heart attack don’t make it to hospital because they have ignored the early signs of a heart attack.
Don’t worry about looking silly if your symptoms don’t turn out to be a heart condition! No one is ever going to treat you as a hypochondriac if you are checking yourself out for chest pain.
A patient once told me a rather concerning story that makes a good example.
“I was walking between offices, and I finally twigged that the nagging pain I was getting in my chest went away when I got to the other office, each time I stopped exerting myself from the walk. It suddenly dawned on me that this could be my heart,” he said. It turned out he needed five stents put in.
So in closing I ask you to take three things into consideration today:
- Look at your family history. Did your parents have heart disease? If so, how old were they when they had heart disease? If they were in their 60s and you are in your 60s, speak to your doctor and have a heart check.
- Take a long hard look in the mirror. If you are overweight, or look there and think, “I could be at risk of a heart attack”, you need to get yourself checked.
- Do the Heart Age Check to find out your ‘heart age’and take steps to improve your heart health. Seek further advice from your GP.