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These 4 Things Happen Right Before You Have a Heart Attack

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in December of 2016. For the original video go to

Bob: Brad, these are the four things that happen right before you have a heart attack. This is very timely because, you heard about Alan Thicke. He just had a heart attack and died. He was playing hockey with his sons and supposedly right when he had it, he was still conscious, and he was talking to his boys. It was a real tragedy; I think he was 69. When you hear that, it’s a good time to go over what signs and symptoms of a heart attack are right before and kind of give you some warnings.

Brad: Most people, if they are having the symptoms, deny it. Oh, it’s nothing, it’s going to go away, and so on. You cannot do that; you have to make sure.

Bob: Especially women, I think. It’s been put in our society that women don’t have heart attacks as much as men do. The fact is though that they do. So, the first one is the most common. This is the one you all know and that’s the chest pain, tightness. It feels like there’s an elephant on your chest. You’re feeling a full feeling and a squeezing pressure. That one, we’re not telling anyone anything that they don’t know. The second one though is plain old sweating. Especially cold sweats, even when you’re resting or at night.

Brad: My friend, last year, had one and he’s only like 44 years old. He said he was just having this pain, but his forehead was just sweating.

Bob: Night sweats and clammy. Same thing happened to me, Brad. I had a patient. He came in to see me and he was just sweating. I said, “Do you normally sweat like this?” It wasn’t a hot day. He said, “no, no.” I said, “Are you short of breath?” and he goes, “Yeah, I had to sit down a couple times on the way over here.” I said, “I think I’m going to call the doctor.” So, I called the doctor and the doctor said, “Bob, I think I should be seeing him instead of you.” So, I drove him right down to the doctor and they air lifted him to Mayo. It was that bad. Alright, so, the third one, and again, it is one sign that especially if you already have indigestion, but indigestion can be a sign. That’s kind of bad because if you already have it for other reasons, and it shows up as a heart attack, you know it’s an easy one to dismiss.

Brad: Right. You think it’s that and instead it’s your heart and the symptoms are exactly the same. 

Bob: Nausea and vomiting, it can get that far where you feel sick and there was another friend that had that. He goes, “I was sick.” So, the fourth one, and this one can be deceiving too, you’re going to have pain in other parts of the body. Sometimes this is the only thing you’re going to have. This one doctor that I was talking about, he was having pain in his shoulder and that’s the only thing that he had. He said he didn’t have any heart history, but he was having a heart attack. What are some other places, Brad?

Brad: In the jaw, teeth. 

Bob: Throat. Yep. You can have it in your back. 

Brad: Yes! I’ve had a patient that described that back pain and he went in and it ended up being a heart attack. It’s these unusual symptoms that don’t have an explanation. It can be in the chest, the jaw, the arm, sometimes in the back.

Bob: Especially when it shows up and it wasn’t there before. Don’t dismiss it. You’d rather go in and feel a little bit foolish than be dead.

Brad: Right, right. 

Bob: Those are the four main ones, Brad. 

Brad: Right. I’ll talk about my personal experience. On my 50th birthday, I was out playing with the kids, playing football running around, and at 3:00 in the morning, I woke up. I was feeling tightness and some pain in my chest, and my breathing felt a little short. 

Bob: And you do have a family history.

Brad: Right, my father has had one or two heart attacks. My uncle died from a heart attack, so that male side, you know. 

Bob: So, it was definitely on your mind.

Brad: It was definitely on my wife’s mind. I’m thinking, okay whatever. She’s says, no we’re going in. So, we jumped in the car and we drove down to the hospital, they hooked me up. It ended up being that they had me over there overnight and they did all the checkup and the EKG monitoring to me. They do that troponin test which is in your blood. Elevated troponin, that means you probably had some muscle deterioration from a heart attack. Everything was perfect. They said it was musculoskeletal, so that was good news.

Bob: Right, exactly. 

Brad: But you need to go in and know for sure.

Bob: And Brad’s a healthy guy. I mean, he works out all the time so this is a good example of someone that easily could have dismissed it. The fact is, Brad, if it happens again, you need to go in again.

Brad: Well, it did happen again, and I did go in again. 

Bob: So that’s really a good sign that you’re doing the right things. 

Brad: Then I followed up with a visit to the cardiologist. He went over me again so I’m feeling pretty confident. What we think it is is something called costochondritis. Which we do have a video on that.

Bob: I’ll link it up. Couple other things, Brad, let’s just mention some other signs. Shortness of breath, obviously. Feeling unusually tired for no reason. This was my friend, he was just like, “I didn’t feel good. I felt really tired.” He ended up having a heart attack. Light-headedness or dizziness. 

Brad: I do want to talk about this, if you’re relatively active and you know you’re body and you’re going to go out for a brisk walk because you walk a lot or you run, or whatever, and you find out that when you start to get your heart rate up and you’re into your exercises, you start to feel different. Maybe some pain, shortness of breath that you haven’t felt before, and actually a lot of people will deny it and then you sit down and everything’s back to normal. If that’s consistent and it was not before, it’s something new, that’s a big red flag. 

Bob: In fact, Brad and I were just talking because I had a little irregular heart rate years ago and I would feel better with exercise. I felt like it actually went away, then he goes, then it’s stress. They did monitoring on me too. People who have high blood sugar, diabetes, may have no symptoms of a heart attack at all and it may go on. Did you know that? 

Brad: No, I didn’t.

Bob: I just read that so it’s something to keep in mind. All right, what to do, Brad, if you have the symptoms of a heart attack. Well, obviously, number one, you don’t want to drive yourself in. You could have the heart attack on the way there and that would not be good, obviously. 

Brad: My father, literally, drove himself in when he was having a heart attack because he’s so darn stubborn. My mother was sitting next to him and he went to the hospital 30 miles away because it was a better hospital, he could’ve gone to the one three miles away but he wasn’t going to that one. 

Bob: That’s a Heinick. That’s a German. Stubborn.

Brad: But anyways, don’t drive. 

Bob: Call 9-1-1. They have the equipment that can deal with this rapidly and can really make a difference in the outcome. 

Brad: People who have symptoms or have heart problems often times they’ll have the medication with them. 

Bob: Nitroglycerin. 

Brad: Right.

Bob: And then in that case, you’re going to want to follow what the doctor says when you’re starting to have chest pain, you’re going to want to go ahead and take it. 

Brad: Typically, there’s something you put under your tongue and usually you know how to take it.

Bob: If you do not have nitroglycerin, what you should take is an aspirin. This is if you’re not allergic to aspirin or if you’ve been told not to take aspirin, then you can go ahead and take 325 mg, but I don’t want you to take water. It’s going to taste crummy, but I actually want you to put it in your mouth and you’re actually going to chew it and swallow it. That’s how you’re suppose to take it. 

Brad: Is there reasoning behind that? 

Bob: It’s going to thin the blood. This is straight from Dr. Oz, by the way. 

Brad: Can’t go wrong with Dr. Oz. 

Bob: Number four, beforehand, it’s really not a bad thing to know which hospitals in your area aren kind of geared towards heart or stroke. These are people who can give you medicine, like on a stroke, they can actually do a reverse thing process where they give you that PTM, I think, I don’t know the name of it. 

Brad: Yeah, we’ve got a video on that too.

Bob: I’ll link that too. That’ll actually help reverse the consequences of a stroke. It opens up the blood vessels, 

Brad: Right, gets that blood flow going.

Bob: So, you really want to know which ones provide that. The last couple things you want to do is if you know somebody that knows CPR, obviously you want to have them around. The defibrillator, the thing is, you were talking about these Brad, these are so easy to use now that a child can use them. If you’re in a public building, most public buildings have them now.

Brad: They are clearly marked. A lot of them are voice instructional. 

Bob: In addition to all this, ideally what we’d like to see you do, is actually do the things that would avoid you having a heart attack in the first place. Try to take care of yourself, eat right and exercise. We can’t tell you how often that becomes the case.

Brad: We should do a video on why aerobic exercises reduces a heart attack risk. We don’t have time now. We’re losing people left and right already, but what about the broken heart. 

Bob: Right, we can fix just about anything...

Brad: except for a broken heart. But this is a good start. 

Bob: This is our start in trying to help fix that broken heart. 

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