PLYMOUTH — Many people have an idea of what a heart attack looks like, when someone feels an abrupt, strong pain that causes them to clutch their chest. While some heart attacks happen suddenly, many start slowly, with pain or discomfort. A person can have symptoms for hours before they realize they’re having a heart attack.

Lifestyle changes can improve heart health. Activities like sharing healthy meals with loved ones, regular exercise and maintaining positive mental health can help those recovering from heart attack or trying to reduce the risk of developing issues.

Knowing what signs to look for can save critical time, and it’s important to be aware of the signs:

Chest discomfort. Chest pain associated with a heart attack doesn’t feel the same for everyone. Some people experience squeezing, discomfort or a feeling of fullness.

Pain or discomfort throughout the body. Heart attack pain isn’t limited to the chest area. Heart attack symptoms can include soreness in the neck, arms, jaw or back, or a combination. Women are more likely than men to experience jaw and back pain while suffering a heart attack.

Shortness of breath. Shortness of breath is a heart attack symptom not usually recognized. Those vulnerable to heart problems should be aware of sudden breathing problems, especially if combined with other symptoms

Nausea. Lightheadedness, vomiting, cold sweats and nausea are also symptoms not often associated with a heart attack, but can signal the onset of one.

Types of heart attacks:

NSTEMI. These attacks happen when blood flow to the heart through a coronary artery is severely restricted, but not entirely blocked.

Demand ischemia. This is another type of attack where blockages in the arteries may not be present. It happens when a patient’s heart needs more oxygen than is available in the body’s supply.

Silent heart attacks: A heart attack does not always have obvious symptoms. A heart attack can happen without a person knowing it.

Coronary artery spasm. The spasm happens when the artery wall tightens and blood flow through the artery is restricted.

Cardiac arrest. This is not a heart attack, but a term used when a person’s heart stops beating. It can be due to a heart attack or occur as a primary event.

Early detection of a heart attack can help prevent damage to the heart, brain and body. Anyone who witnesses someone having these symptoms, or feels them, should call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.

Comfort Keepers Can Help

Heart health becomes more important as people age, and the care team at Comfort Keepers can help. Caregivers can remind clients to take medication, provide transportation to scheduled appointments, and support physician-prescribed exercise regimens and diets. To learn more about in-home care services, contact Comfort Keepers at 603-536-6060, or visit

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