High blood pressure
A heart attack limits the pumping function of the heart and less blood can be transported through the body. This leads to a drop in blood pressure. In contrast, high blood pressure is usually not the result of a heart attack, but rather a risk factor for getting a heart attack.
Among other things, high blood pressure damages the vessels that supply the heart and can lead to so-called coronary heart disease, colloquially known as calcification of the heart vessels. This leads to deposits in the vessel wall. If these deposits come loose, they can clog a vessel and cause a heart attack.
The risk of such coronary heart disease rises sharply at blood pressure levels of 130/85 mmHg. The most common and usually strongest sign of a heart attack is pain felt in the chest. These pains are perceived in very different forms.
For example, one can feel a feeling of tightness, pressure or a burning sensation. This burning sensation is often difficult to distinguish from heartburn. However, heartburn is caused by a gastrointestinal tract.
In contrast to the burning pain in the chest during a heart attack, which is usually felt suddenly and extremely intensely, heartburn usually occurs in relation to meals, more often while lying down and in a weaker form. Normally, the blood, which is low in oxygen, flows from the small circulation of the lungs, where it is supplied with oxygen, through the left part of the heart into the large circulation of the body, thus supplying all organs with oxygen. Due to the limited pumping function of the heart during a heart attack, blood can back up into the lungs. This causes fluid to leak from the vessels and collect in the lungs. This makes it difficult for the lungs to take up oxygen and can lead to coughing and shortness of breath.
Signs of silent heart attack
A silent myocardial infarction, i.e. an infarction without the typical accompanying pain symptoms, occurs particularly as one of the consequences of diabetes mellitus or in older people. This is due to the fact that in these patients the responsible nerves at the heart, which are responsible for the conduction of pain, have already lost their function due to age or disease. Thus, the perception of pain is limited and the severe pain of a heart attack goes unnoticed. However, in these patients, a heart attack is usually noticeable by the other signs, such as sudden shortness of breath. In addition, a rapid drop in blood pressure, weakness, confusion or loss of consciousness can also be signs of a silent heart attack.
How do the signs differ between men and women?
In general, there are different signs that can occur in both women and men when having a heart attack. These are mainly extremely severe chest pain, which often leads to fear of death. This pain is more often experienced by women than by men as a feeling of pressure or tightness in the chest.
In addition, the pain can radiate into different regions, such as the arms, around the navel or into the back. In men, only the left arm is usually affected. In women, the right arm is sometimes also affected.
The pain also occurs more frequently in the neck and lower jaw. In addition, women suffer more frequently from breathing difficulties in the case of heart attacks. These signs are referred to as non-specific symptoms, as they occur less frequently in heart attacks than in other diseases.
The danger here is that women often do not recognise these symptoms as such, but rather associate them with stomach upset, for example. However, if these symptoms appear for the first time and suddenly, a heart attack should not be ruled out, especially in women. A heart attack in women can sometimes be announced weeks in advance with an ambiguous symptomatology. Sleep disorders and a general state of exhaustion can be signs of an impending heart attack in women and older patients.