If You Notice This While Walking, It Could Be a Heart Attack Warning Sign
This may mean that your heart is not working as well as it should be.
Heart attacks are usually thought of as very dramatic scenarios—think a person dropping to the ground and clutching their left arm or chest amid a sudden onset of pain. In reality, however, more than half of heart attacks start showing signs as early as weeks beforehand. These symptoms subtly warn individuals that danger is ahead, but they are easily ignored. One heart attack warning sign could appear while you're doing an activity as simple as walking. Read on to find out what you should be on the lookout for when you're on a stroll.
If you have difficulty breathing while walking, it could be a warning sign for a heart attack.
Peter Bailey, MD, a family practice physician and expert contributor for Test Prep Insight, says that difficulty breathing while walking could be a clear indicator that you may experience a heart attack soon. "If you feel short of breath, or your body starts to naturally breathe in short shallow breaths, almost like you're gasping for air after being underwater, it could definitely be the early signs of a heart attack," he explains.
Shortness of breath that comes on with an activity such as walking could be a sign that your "heart is not pumping well," says Chris Hanifin, MS, a former EMS volunteer and open heart surgeon, and current department chair for the Physician Assistant Program at Seton Hall University. If your heart muscle cannot efficiently pump blood, part of it may lose oxygen and result in a heart attack.
But you should also be on the lookout for other heart attack signs.
If your heart muscle is not receiving enough blood, you will likely experience more symptoms than just having some difficulty breathing. Hanifin says it is important to watch out for chest pain. "Chest pain associated with shortness of breath, nausea, and/or profuse sweating are all warning signs of heart trouble and should be investigated," he says. "It is important to get chest pain evaluated as quickly as possible."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shortness of breath and chest discomfort often go hand in hand, but with a heart attack, difficulty breathing can occur before the typical chest pain occurs. Bailey also says he often hears patients complaining of numbness or tingling in their hands and arms immediately before a heart attack.
"If you're walking and start to feel a tingling sensation in your hands followed by tightness in the chest or armpit area, be alert," he says.
Early treatment is extremely vital for a heart attack.
According to the CDC, someone has a heart attack in the U.S. every 40 seconds, which amounts to about 805,000 people having a heart attack every year. When it comes to preventing damage from a heart attack, "early treatment will preserve as much heart tissue as possible and help to avoid disability," Hanifin says.
"If you notice the symptoms of a heart attack in yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately," the CDC says. "At the hospital, health care professionals can run tests to find out if a heart attack is happening and decide the best treatment. The chances of surviving a heart attack are better the sooner emergency treatment begins."
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Trouble breathing may also be a sign of heart failure in general.
Difficulty breathing may not just be a sign of a one-time cardiovascular event, however. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), shortness of breath is a key sign of heart failure, which occurs when your heart is weak or damaged and cannot supply blood to the rest of your body. A heart attack can put your heart in this damaged state, and you might not even realize you had one before you get diagnosed with heart failure. According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 heart attacks are silent.
Over time, heart failure can make everyday activities, such as walking, a very difficult task. "In the early stages of heart failure, you may have trouble breathing after exercise, getting dressed, or walking across a room," WebMD says. "But as the heart gets weaker, you may feel breathless even when you lie down. See your doctor if that's happening to you."