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  • Cameron Oglesby

Many signs of a heart attack aren’t this obvious

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

The most obvious sign of a heart attack is intense chest pain, as if an elephant were sitting on your chest. It’s also the most prevalent sign. But, as study at Denmark’s Nordsjaellands Hospital found, it’s far from the only one.

Over a four-year period, from 2014 through 2018, researchers analyzed heart attack-related calls to a 24-hour non-urgent medical helpline and to a Danish equivalent of 911. Of the adults 30 and older who called, 8,336 were diagnosed with heart attacks within 72 hours of calling. For 72% of those patients, that elephant-sitting-on-the-chest pain was the specific primary symptom.

But for 24% – almost one of every four cases – the symptoms were entirely different: breathing problems, extreme exhaustion, abdominal pain. What’s more, according to study author Amalie Lykkermark Møller, these “[a]typical symptoms were most common among older people especially women, who called a non-emergency helpline for assistance.” The American Heart Association agrees that women are more likely than men to experience other warning symptoms, including nausea and/or vomiting, back or jaw pain, lightheadedness, or breaking out in a cold sweat.

There are two important takeaways from this:

First, don’t shrug off any of the warning signs. “People with atypical symptoms more often called the [non-emergency] helpline, which could indicate that their symptoms were milder or they were not aware of the severity,” Møller told the European Heart Journal. Know what all the warning signs are, and seek medical attention even if you’re going through one of the milder ones. It’s better to feel a bit foolish in the ambulance or ER than to die from an untreated heart attack.

Second, this is yet another way in which people are different from each other – too different to be shoehorned into a predetermined menu of standard senior care options.

That’s why at Senior Insights, getting a complete picture of our clients as the individuals they are is a core value.

It’s why our initial three-part holistic needs assessment goes beyond superficial physical health to also look at mental health, functional and social abilities, cognitive health, and even a safety evaluation, to uncover important information that neither our clients nor their families may have known.

And why our monthly Registered Nurse assessments go way beyond just taking vital signs and are more like mini-needs assessments.

So please contact us to find out more about senior care that helps you live life on your own terms.

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