Healthy Living: Heart attack signs and symptoms

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February is heart month, and a time we like to focus on our cardiovascular health, specifically for women as we tend to assume caregiver roles, and often times, our own care goes by the wayside which is why Dr. Ruchi Kapoor says acting quickly can mean the difference in life and death.

"Having somebody recognize your symptoms quickly and soon and getting care for it means that we save brains and we save heart muscle and you know lead to better quality of life and better longevity."

Dr. Kapoor is an assistant clinical professor of cardiology with UW and she says while it is important for men to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, the signs are often missed or overlooked by women. Here are the common heart attack warning signs; pain or discomfort in the chest, lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting and jaw, neck or back pain, "That heaviness going down the arm, or going up the jaw, you know, that totally counts also." 

The 4th sign is discomfort or pain in the arm or shoulder, and finally shortness of breath.  

Dr. Kapoor says if you are experiencing any of these signs don’t hesitate to go to the doctor or emergency room, because time is so critical when it comes to our hearts.

So what are some things we need to be mindful of in February and every day? "Know your numbers. Know your blood pressure, know your weight, and know your cholesterol numbers, know your blood sugar, exercise, pay attention to your diet."

While in the middle of a pandemic, we know exercise can be tough, but Dr. Kapoor says walking is free, and we can all do a little more of that, "Walking, brisk walking especially if you can do that, 30 minutes a day, 3 to 5 times a week is ideal."

There are several key risk factors for heart disease including high blood pressure and high cholesterol however, just because you don’t have any of the risk factors doesn’t mean you are somehow immune from a heart attack as Dr. Kapoor says it can happen to anyone in an instant.

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