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Heart Attack and Stroke Signs

February 14, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

In yesterday’s blog, I described one possible strategy to help reduce the risk of heart disease. My hope is that the information I present here will help keep your cardiovascular system healthy and symptom-free. But I understand very well that there are no guarantees in life.  Unfortunately, some of us will have to deal with the stark reality of a heart attack or stroke. It may happen to us personally or to someone close to us. So today, I’d like to offer a brief overview of the most common symptoms that should warn us that a heart attack or stroke is occurring.

Heart Attacks in WomenWarning Signs of a Heart Attack in Women

An interesting observation that many doctors have made is that women often exhibit different heart attack symptoms than men. Please review the following list of symptoms and keep them in mind if you’re at high-risk for heart disease.

  • The most important warning sign is a feeling of persistent fatigue. This type of tiredness isn’t alleviated by getting adequate sleep.
  • Beware of any burning, pain, tightness or heavy feelings in your chest – especially if these symptoms radiate to your head, neck, inner arms and/or shoulders
  • Unusual headaches or an increase in the severity of headaches
  • Pain in the middle of your back between the shoulders
  • Unexplained nausea (feeling “sick to the stomach”)
  • Unexpected anxious, fearful or nervous feelings
  • An unusual pain just above your belly button
  • Difficulty breathing and sleeping

I realize that this is a pretty broad list. But the point is, if you even suspect that you may be having a heart attack, please seek immediate attention. Getting the proper medical support in a timely manner is vital to increasing your odds for survival and the best possible recovery.

Heart Attacks in MenHeart Attack Symptoms in Men

Men tend to have more of the “classic” symptoms of a heart attack. Still, a reminder of these warning signs may help to save lives. Be on high alert if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • A feeling of heaviness, pain or pressure in the chest. This usually lasts for several minutes and isn’t relieved by “calming down” or resting. This is perhaps the most common and most important symptom to look out for.
  • Another cause for concern is a pain that extends to the back and shoulders, the neck and jaw and/or the radiates down the arms.
  • Some men also experience cold sweats, light headedness, nausea (feeling “sick to the stomach”) and difficulty breathing.

These symptoms can happen in isolation or as a group. If you have any question about whether or not you may be having an attack, seek personal assistance posthaste.

Don’t Stroke Out

Yesterday we discussed the fact that coronary heart disease is the number one killer among both men and women. Strokes are number three on the killer list. In some ways, strokes are even more dangerous because there’s a lower level of awareness than for heart disease. Hopefully that will soon change, because strokes are not only life-takers, they can also be incredibly devastating to those who survive them and their families.

A stroke is often referred to as a “brain attack”. The most prevalent type of stroke is an Ischemic Stroke. This variety of stroke is caused by the inability of blood to flow to the brain. This typically happens when a blood clot blocks an artery (that’s often filled with calcium and cholesterol deposits) thereby preventing blood and oxygen from getting to the brain. Without blood and oxygen, brain cells begin to die.

Another common form of stroke is a Hemorrhagic Stroke. It occurs when small blood vessels in our brain break and bleeding occurs. This in turn damages brain cells.

Health professionals generally look for the following symptoms as initial indicators that a stroke has taken place:

  • A SUDDEN numbness or weakness of these areas of the body: the arms, the face or the legs. This sometimes occurs on only one side of the body.
  • A SUDDEN loss of balance and coordination. You may notice that you have difficulty walking and that you feel dizzy.
  • A SUDDEN sense of confusion. Speaking clearly and your ability to understand others may be impaired.
  • A SUDDEN change in eyesight. You may notice that you’re having trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
  • A SUDDEN and unusually severe headache

Other danger signs include: difficulty swallowing and an inability to read and write as you normally do.

Act F.A.S.T

FACE Does one side of the face droop? Ask the person to smile.
ARMS Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH Is speech slurred? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the sentence repeated correctly?
TIME If the person shows any of these symptoms, CALL 911 immediately.

In the United States, it is estimated that a stroke occurs every 40 seconds. I’m not telling you this to scare you. I just want to emphasize the importance of being aware of the very real risk and taking steps to protect yourself.

The risk factors for strokes are very similar to those of heart disease. But there are a few exceptions. Certain medications like birth control pills, hormone replacement and blood thinners may raise the risk of a stroke. Birth control pills and hormone replacement may up the odds of blood clots, which can impact the risk of an Ischemic Stroke. Ironically, blood thinners may be helpful in preventing abnormal blood clots but they may increase the risk of blood vessels breaking in the brain, a Hemorrhagic Stroke.

Avoiding excess alcohol, cigarettes and drug abuse, preventing/treating diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and exercising are some of the best ways to lessen your stroke risk. Using some of the tips I regularly provide on this site will probably also give you an added layer of protection.

Please take this information to heart and mind. Share it with those you care about. We should always focus on prevention and anticipate good health. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for the possibility of something going wrong. Combining both of these philosophies makes for the best possible approach to health care.

Be well!


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Posted in Heart Health, Men's Health, Women's Health

One Comment to “Heart Attack and Stroke Signs”

  1. JP Says:

    pdate: Flax oil may protect the brain from stroke damage and possibly promote recovery …


    Nutrition Journal 2015, 14:20

    Oral consumption of α-linolenic acid increases serum BDNF levels in healthy adult humans

    Background aims Dietary omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids have remarkable impacts on the levels of DHA in the brain and retina. Low levels of DHA in plasma and blood hamper visual and neural development in children and cause dementia and cognitive decline in adults. The level of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) changes with dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake. BDNF is known for its effects on promoting neurogenesis and neuronal survival. Methods In this study, we examined the effect of the oral consumption of α-Linolenic acid (ALA) on blood levels of BDNF and Malondialdehyde (MDA) in healthy adult humans. 30 healthy volunteers, 15 men and 15 women, were selected randomly. Each individual served as his or her own control. Before consuming the Flaxseed oil capsules, 5cc blood from each individual was sampled in order to measure the plasma levels of BDNF and MDA as baseline controls. During the experiment, each individual was given 3 oral capsules of flaxseed oil, containing 500mg of alpha linolenic acid, daily for one week. Then, plasma levels of BDNF and MDA were tested. Results The plasma levels of BDNF and MDA significantly (P < 0.05) increased in individuals who received the oral capsules of ALA. Plasma levels of BDNF increased more in the women in comparison with the men. Conclusion ALA treatment could be a feasible approach to reduce size of infarcts in stroke patients. Thus, ALA could be used in adjunction with routine stroke therapies to minimize brain lesions caused by stroke.

    Be well!


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