The 4 Biggest Early Warning Signs Before A Heart Attack or Stroke And Ways To Prevent Them
Cardiovascular disease is one of the greatest threats to the health of Americans. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, and stroke is the No. 5 cause of death, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
In light of these alarming figures, medical professionals are highlighting the need to recognize early warning signs of heart attack and stroke.
When it comes to a heart attack, health experts say the four biggest early warning signs to watch for are:
• Discomfort that can feel like pressure, squeezing, heaviness, or tightness in the center of the chest.
• Pain in the neck, shoulder, jaw, or in one or both arms.
• Tiring quickly and getting easily winded after performing simple tasks.
• Nausea, abdominal pain, and indigestion.
While some patients may have mild symptoms, Dr. Nikhil Sikand, a Yale Medicine cardiologist and assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, noted that others may have no symptoms at all.
The intervals between when symptoms occur and when a heart attack happens vary from person to person. However, Dr. Khandelwal said about two-thirds of her patients can recall a moment when they felt chest pain in the month before they had a heart attack. In other cases, some people may experience worsening symptoms in the days leading up to a heart attack.
Studies: Weight-loss Drug, Vitamin D Reduces Cardiovascular Events
While there are traditional treatments for cardiovascular disease, research is underway to find new treatments to fight the disease. For instance, in early August, Novo Nordisk announced that a landmark clinical trial found that semaglutide reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in people with heart failure and obesity by 20 percent. The company’s popular diabetes and weight-loss drug is marketed in the United States as “Wegovy.”
The trial involved 529 patients from 13 countries in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia who had a body mass index of more than 30, as well as heart failure symptoms and physical limitations. The median age of the group was 69, and the median weight was 231.7 pounds (105.1kg). One group was given 2.4 mg of semaglutide once a week for a year, while the other group was given a placebo.
Researchers discovered that once-weekly Wegovy injections reduced the likelihood of heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular deaths among patients by 20 percent, according to the study published in August in The New England Journal of Medicine.
“We are talking about marked improvements in symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, inability to have physical exertion, swelling,” said Dr. Mikhail Kosiborod, the study’s lead investigator and a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. “These types of improvements can be very impactful for patients living with heart failure.
Based on the findings, Novo Nordisk said it would ask regulators in the United States and the European Union to expand Wegovy’s label to include the drug’s ability to reduce the risks of cardiovascular events.
In another study, Australian researchers found that vitamin D supplements may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people ages 60 and older.
The study involved 21, 315 participants, aged 60-84, who were divided into two groups. One group was given an oral vitamin D supplement of 60,000 IU a month (which averages out to about 2,000 IU a day), while the other group was given a placebo.
The investigators discovered that, compared with the placebo group, the rate of major cardiovascular events was 9 percent lower in the vitamin D group, especially for those who were already taking heart medicines like statins at the beginning of the study.
However, there was no difference in the stroke rate between the two groups, according to the study published in June in The British Medical Journal.
Warning Sign and Symtoms of a Stroke
The most significant early warning signs of a stroke is a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), more commonly known as a “mini-stroke.” A TIA is caused by a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. It comes on quickly, may last for a short time but does not cause permanent brain damage.
Dr. Joshua Willey, a stroke neurology expert at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, explained to HuffPost that calling a TIA a mini-stroke is problematic because it “minimizes the emergent nature of the condition.” Dr. Willey said he prefers calling a TIA a “warning stroke” because the phrase “highlights that this condition is an emergency, just like a ‘regular’ stroke.”
Most TIA symptoms go away within an hour, although they may persist for up to 24 hours. The symptoms are also similar to those of a stroke, and medical experts urge people to learn the acronym BE FAST, to remember the signs of stroke:
• Balance: Changes in balance or a loss of balance.
• Eyesight: Changes in vision, like blurriness, loss of sight, or double vision.
• Facial droop: Drooping of the face or an uneven smile.
• Arm: Arm weakness on one side of the body.
• Speech: Changes in speech, like slurring words or speaking gibberish.
• Time: It’s time to call emergency services. According to Willey, the “t” can also stand for the terrible headache that comes on fast.
“You could have all of those symptoms, you could have one of those symptoms or any mixture in between,” Dr. Brandon Giglio, the director of vascular neurology at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn told HuffPost. “So, don’t wait around for more than one sign. If you notice any of these issues, go to the emergency room.”
How To Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
The good news is that cardiovascular disease can be avoided by adopting a healthy lifestyle, according to health experts, who also advise working with your doctors to manage any health conditions that increase your risk for a stroke or heart attack.
Medical professionals recommend lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease by taking such steps as:
• Eating a healthy, balanced diet
• Staying physically active
• Watching your weight
• Taking medication to manage any health conditions
• Quit smoking
• Reduce alcohol consumption
• Keeping your blood pressure under control
• Getting your cholesterol checked regularly. Too much cholesterol in your blood can cause a heart attack or a stroke.
A cardiovascular event can happen to anyone. So, if you are experiencing symptoms but are unsure whether you’re having a heart attack or stroke, Dr. Patrice Desvigne-Nickens, a National Institutes of Health expert in heart health, says to dial 9-1-1.
“You should not go get your car keys. Your spouse shouldn’t be driving you to the hospital,” Dr. Desvigne-Nickens says. “The emergency crew is trained to treat these symptoms, and it could mean the difference between life and death.”