You’d think a heart attack would be hard to miss. However, there are often no heart attack symptoms, or at least the symptoms are atypical. So, if you’re wondering “How do I know if I’m having a heart attack?” or want to know how to prevent a heart attack in the first place, you’ll want to read this. A Singapore cardiologist shares how lifestyle changes, cardiac screening and a cardiac monitoring device can help.
How do I know if I’m having a heart attack?
Sometimes, you don’t.
The film scene where a person clutches their chest and collapses to the ground can be very different to how typical heart attack symptoms work in real life. In reality, one of the top heart attack symptoms is back pain, which is often ignored because it’s not recognised as a typical sign of heart attack.
Other heart attack symptoms may include:
- Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, neck, jaw, or stomach
- Difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
- Sweating or “cold sweat”
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fullness, indigestion or a choking, heartburn-like feeling
- Extreme weakness or anxiety
- Rapid or irregular heart beats
Surprisingly, 50 percent of all heart attacks have no symptoms – known as a silent heart attack – or they have atypical heart attack symptoms.
As a result, many people don’t even find out that they’ve had a heart attack until weeks or even months later. They often delay to seek help or contact their cardiologist because the symptoms are not what they expected.
By that time, the permanent damage to the muscle of the heart has already been done, explains Singapore cardiologist DR LESLIE LAM of The Cardiac Centre at Farrer Park Hospital.
However, if the patient is treated within an hour or two of the heart attack, much of that damage can be prevented or reversed with treatments to restore blood flow to the damaged muscle tissue.
“The quicker a patient gets to the hospital, the quicker the heart attack can be diagnosed and treated. This would mean a greater chance of a full recovery,” says Dr Lam.
So, exactly how do you prevent a heart attack?
Here are three ways you can prevent a heart attack.
#1 Cardiac monitoring device
Even patients who have had heart attacks before can fail to recognise the symptoms of another one, or they can have another silent one with no symptoms before it. They can be at greater risk of suffering serious damage, or even death.
Thankfully, there is now a device that alerts patients to seek immediate medical attention.
The FDA-approved AngelMed Guardian is the world’s first implanted cardiac monitoring device that can warn patients of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) events such as heart attacks. It’s intended for use in high-risk patients, including those who have previously suffered a heart attack and remain at high risk for recurrent and possibly fatal events.
Patients who have used the device say that it has helped improve their quality of life, as it reduces anxiety, and gives them the confidence to enjoy life and be more active.
Here’s how the AngelMed Guardian works:
Although you’ll be kept at the hospital overnight just in case, the device is simple to implant, says Dr Lam. It’s placed under the skin below the clavicle and attached to the heart with a sensor lead, much like a pacemaker. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to continuously monitor the patient’s heart signals. The device alerts the patient to any danger by vibrating. There’s also an external alarm that beeps and has blinking lights.
“Although the AngelMed monitor is a new technology, the operation is almost the same as placing a pacemaker. More than 700,000 pacemarkers are implanted each year – so surgical teams are already very familiar with the procedure.”
Talk to your cardiologist to find out if the device is right for you.
#2 Make healthier lifestyle changes
Of course, reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease is the best way to prevent a heart attack. This can be done by making certain lifestyle changes. These may include:
- stopping smoking;
- lowering your cholesterol;
- managing your blood pressure;
- lowering your stress levels; and
- getting enough sleep.
#3 Go for a cardiac screening
While a 100-percent heart-healthy lifestyle is unrealistic for many, a cardiac screening is a good way to identify an individual’s current risk status so he or she can make changes accordingly. This, in turn, reduces the chances of a heart attack or stroke.
Therefore, seeing your cardiologist for a screening is another key way to prevent a heart attack. A cardiac screening makes it possible to pick up important risk factors that have been accumulating over the years. It can also help us to pause and realise the need to make positive changes to our behaviours. This will help prevent cardiac events that could have a significant impact on our lives and our families’ lives.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with The Cardiac Centre, call 6732 1881 or 6734 0788, or visit leslielam.com.sg.
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