I was the unfortunate recipient of a heart attack on Halloween night this year. I've been overweight and out-of-shape for years, but I never expected it to happen the way that it did – nor at the early age of forty-one. My action plan consisted of feeling a pain in my chest or down my arm, calling 911 and waiting by the open front door until the ambulance arrived. Well, that did not happen in my case. I was hosting a Monty Python and the Holy Grail scavenger hunt, sword fighting our guests disguised as the Black Knight. I fought somewhere between 12 and 15 people when I started getting tired. A quick thrust and parry forward and I kept falling. That was it. I had a massive heart attack, unconscious, and on the brink of death had it not been for some fast acting people who knew CPR – including my wife. None of the signs of a heart attack were present. While my case may be different, here are the five typical signs of a heart attack:
Discomfort in your chest.
Most heart attacks involve a discomfort – which is Doctor-talk for "pain" – in your chest. The term discomfort is synonymous with "slight pinch". This will typically last for longer than a few minutes. Note: I had none of this. I never felt any tightness or discomfort in my chest. When I had my heart attack – it just happened.
Discomfort in your arms, back, neck , jaw, etc …
Another symptom of a heart attack is a pain in your upper body. This could occur anywhere above your waist and is similar to the tightness in your chest. The night I had my heart attack, I was tired, but had no other pains. I had just had a break from the fighting and prepared to take on several more people. Other than a bit of sweat, I felt fine.
Shortness of breath.
Once again, with the other symptoms listed, this did not happen to me. I was tired, but it was a normal feeling that I had expected. The people I was fighting were often in better shape and younger than me so I was already prepared to be tired. The shortness of breath can be the result of a lack of oxygen going into the body. I had no feeling of being short of breath.
Breaking out in a cold sweat.
I was sweating. There is no doubt in this, but it was from the physical activity. I did not have the cold, clammy feeling associated with having a heart attack. If anything, I was overheated. While this may occur with many people, it is good to note that it is not a sure sign of heart failure.
Nausea and lightheadedness.
Of all the symptoms, this was the closest I had to the standard list, though I did not recognize it at the time. I had no symptoms of nausea, but I started getting dizzy right before I fell over. The dizziness was so sudden and I was going around in circles, so I thought it was just me. Also, I thought it was not anything to worry about, but then it was too late.
Each of these symptoms is located on most major medical web sites. They claim these are the warning signs of a heart attack, but, as you can see, I did not experience any of these. A heart attack can happen at any time and it is best to remember that you can not always count on the typical warning signs. Hopefully, if you do experience a heart attack, someone will be around you that will recognize what is happening.