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MEN’S HEART HEALTH: SYMPTOMS TO CONSIDER

When it comes to heart health men are in some ways a little luckier than women. As a man, you are more likely to survive your first heart attack, your symptoms are often more straight-forward and recognizable, and you often recover better after an attack.

However, all of that is dependent on you being aware of your heart health and risk factors and getting treatment if you have concerns. This is especially important because, although chest discomfort is still the most common sign of a heart problem, not all heart problems come with clear warning signs. Some don’t even happen in your chest.

WARNING SIGNS FOR HEART PROBLEMS

Here are some important warning signs to be aware of:

  1. Chest discomfort – is the most common sign and can be described as pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest. It may be a sign of a blocked artery or heart attack.
  2. Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or stomach pain – the nerves in your gastrointestinal tract are closely intertwined with the nerves from the heart, so heart pain can feel like stomach pain. Usually, nausea caused by an impeding heart attack gets worse with physical exertion and eases with rest.
  3. Radiating pain – this is also a common symptom. Pain may spread down the left side of the body or upwards to your throat or jaw, or be solely centered in the arm.
  4. Dizziness or lightheadedness – this can be caused by many factors, but if it’s combined with chest discomfort or shortness of breath, call a doctor. It could mean your blood pressure has dropped because your heart isn’t pumping properly.
  5. Shortness of breath – panting or difficulty drawing deep breaths could be a sign of a heart attack.
  6. Sweating – if you break out in a cold sweat for no obvious reason, this could be a sign of a heart attack.
  7. Irregular heartbeat – it’s normal for the heart to race during periods of tension or excitement, but, if you feel this happening for more than just a few seconds or regularly, it could signal atrial fibrillation and require treatment.
  8. Extreme fatigue – you should pay attention if your usual routine seems unusually hard, or you wake up still feeling tired. It can signal weakness of the left ventricle, the main muscle responsible for pumping blood from the heart to the rest of the body. (Women more often report experiencing this symptom than men, but men may also experience it in the days leading up to an attack.)

The more risk factors you have the more you should be concerned about anything heart related. For example, if you’re 60 or older, overweight, diabetic, or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, these are risk factors for a heart condition, and you should pay particular attention to changes in your health.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY HEART IS HEALTHY?

It’s important to speak to your health care practitioner regarding shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, or any other concerning symptoms. To determine the health of your heart, your doctor may perform a physical exam or order lab tests and imaging to investigate the cause for symptoms.

Imaging could include exams to find out how your heart performs under stress, such as an exercise stress test or myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI). Coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) may also be appropriate.

CCTA can non-invasively examine the coronary arteries using a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce comprehensive, detailed images. It’s designed to look for plaque buildup in the arteries supplying the heart muscle (a risk factor for heart disease). Patients with family histories of heart disease may be at risk for developing atherosclerotic plaque buildup, blocking or narrowing these arteries. On CT, these can be identified even before symptoms of chest pain develop.

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REFERENCES

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. (2022) “Risk and prevention.” www.heartandstroke.ca. Accessed May 18, 2022.

Mayo Clinic Staff (2022) “Heart attack symptoms: Know what’s a medical emergency.” www.mayoclinic.org. Accessed May 18, 2022.

MacMillan, A. (2021) “Never Ignore These 11 Heart Symptoms.” www.webmd.com. Accessed May 18, 2022.

Taylor, M. G. (2019) “7 Warning Signs That You May Be at Risk of a Heart Attack.” www.menshealth.com. Accessed May 18, 2022.

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