Anyone reading this who has a child will know this…..no matter how many books you read, classes you attend, Google searches you make or advice you gain from existing parents, nothing can ever prepare you for how drastically, totally and ever-eternally your life will change once you have children! And, to be honest, how many of us wouldn’t have them if we actually knew the reality? I wouldn’t change my children for anything on this planet but it doesn’t alter the fact that my life was never going to be the same again once my children started arriving.
I say all this because I believe the same is true of having a heart attack, no-one would ever do anything to increase their risk of having one if they actually knew the reality of what it involves and what ensues, myself included!
For most people who have a heart attack, this isn’t the first warning sign!
The stereotypical heart attack we witness mostly is of the artificial variety, TV, film, plays etc…and the actors involved in these representations are obviously portraying the event as accurately as they can. However, having now spoken to many different people about their experience via the Cardio Rehab programme, I can tell you quite emphatically that the experience is not like this for most of us!
Firstly, the extreme pain we see portrayed is very rarely the first sign of heart problems, you’ve heard it all before but ‘indigestion’ is most people’s self diagnosis for the angina pains they start to experience, very often before the actual heart attack. And indigestion is exactly what it felt like to me. It’s not an agonising pain in the area where your heart is located, it’s a generalised pain that spreads across your chest, arms, back and neck and tends to feel a lot like acid reflux. Click here to see the NHS list of symptoms and what to do if they occur. Of course, we’re all different but this is the sensation a lot of people have described to me so it’s worth clocking that!
Most of the people I’ve spoken to have also continued with whatever they were doing as the warning signs were building up, thinking they should power on through. I’ve spoken to people who were ripping up carpets at the time, up ladders fixing roofs or loading vans, they’ve all carried on with what they were doing. And there-in lies part of the problem I think, we all think a heart attack is a dramatic event where we’ll collapse on the floor clutching our chests, (and it can be!) but, more often than not it’s a sensation that can easily be ignored and passed off as being nothing very important.
Not that I’m suggesting that we should run to our doctor every time we experience indigestion type symptoms, just that we should be aware that heart disease can start showing symptoms in a very non-threatening way. In fact, I had had extensive tests done on my heart only 18 months before the attack and was told that my heart was ok, I went for tests in the first place because I suspected there was something awry.
I’m not telling you that tests are unreliable to scare you, but to make sure that you know that getting the all clear from Nuclear Stress Tests, Monitoring and Scans doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can go wrong. I took my test results as meaning that my heart was perfectly ok, so when the symptoms started it was the last thing I thought was wrong.
I’m going to write a few of these blogs about heart attacks, hence the fact that this one is called ‘Episode 1’, but I’m going to try to cover aspects of the subject in a very real way so that you get a better idea of what they’re really all about and how they affect your life, keep your eyes open for more!