How to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack

Jaw pain, feeling of indigestion may be signs of heart trouble

SALEM, Va. – Do you know how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack or heart trouble?

WSLS 10 News talked with a cardiothoracic surgeon at LewisGale Medical Center in Salem about the signs and symptoms to watch out for, including some that may be harder to recognize.

"A lot of the signs and symptoms are very variable, so you have to be very careful," said Dr. James Taylor.

He said many people never experience the classic chest pain that happens in the middle of the chest and then radiates down the left arm.

"A lot of people will have just some jaw pain, some people will have back pain, some people have, in fact the last few patients that I worked with had indigestion and they thought it was just something they ate," Dr. Taylor said.

He said many women experience indigestion or a pain or pressure just below the rib cage.

Dr. Taylor said it can sometimes be tough to catch the signs of a heart attack or heart trouble during exercise, but it's important to be aware of what to watch out for, especially if the pain subsides.

"When people sit down and they relax and rest it will go away and that's a telltale symptom that it probably has something to do with your heart muscle not getting enough blood flow," Dr. Taylor said. "If you're short of breath and it's worse than it was a week or a month ago and you realize 'I can't get up this hill, I'm having a hard time breathing,' you're going to need to have someone take a look at that."

Dr. Taylor said it's important to consider a family history of heart disease, and medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle as increased risk factors for suffering a heart attack.

He said it's important to maintain an active lifestyle and eat a balanced diet to maintain heart health.

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