When it comes to heart health men are in some ways a little luckier than women. As a man, you are more likely to survive your first heart attack, your symptoms are often more straight-forward and recognizable, and you often recover better after an attack.
However, all of that is dependent on you being aware of your heart health and risk factors and getting treatment if you have concerns. This is especially important because, although chest discomfort is still the most common sign of a heart problem, not all heart problems come with clear warning signs. Some don’t even happen in your chest.
Here are some important warning signs to be aware of:
- Chest discomfort – is the most common sign and can be described as pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest. It may be a sign of a blocked artery or heart attack.
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or stomach pain – the nerves in your gastrointestinal tract are closely intertwined with the nerves from the heart, so heart pain can feel like stomach pain. Usually, nausea caused by an impeding heart attack gets worse with physical exertion and eases with rest.
- Radiating pain – this is also a common symptom. Pain may spread down the left side of the body or upwards to your throat or jaw, or be solely centered in the arm.
- Dizziness or lightheadedness – this can be caused by many factors, but if it’s combined with chest discomfort or shortness of breath, call a doctor. It could mean your blood pressure has dropped because your heart isn’t pumping properly.
- Shortness of breath – panting or difficulty drawing deep breaths could be a sign of a heart attack.
- Sweating – if you break out in a cold sweat for no obvious reason, this could be a sign of a heart attack.
- Irregular heartbeat – it’s normal for the heart to race during periods of tension or excitement, but, if you feel this happening for more than just a few seconds or regularly, it could signal atrial fibrillation and require treatment.
- Extreme fatigue – you should pay attention if your usual routine seems unusually hard, or you wake up still feeling tired. It can signal weakness of the left ventricle, the main muscle responsible for pumping blood from the heart to the rest of the body. (Women more often report experiencing this symptom than men, but men may also experience it in the days leading up to an attack.)
The more risk factors you have the more you should be concerned about anything heart related. For example, if you’re 60 or older, overweight, diabetic, or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, these are risk factors for a heart condition and you should pay particular attention to changes in your health.
For more information about risk factors or signs of a heart attack, visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada website or speak to your doctor.
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. (2018) 2018 Heart Report. www.heartandstroke.ca. Accessed May 18, 2018.
Mayo Clinic Staff (2017) Heart attack symptoms: Know what’s a medical emergency. www.mayoclinic.org. Accessed May 18, 2018.
MacMillan, Amanda (2017) Never Ignore These 11 Heart Symptoms. www.webmd.com. Accessed May 18, 2018.
Taylor, MaryGrace (2018) “6 Harrowing Signs a Heart Attack Might be in Your Near Future.” Men’s Health. www.menshealth.com. Accessed May 18, 2018.