Movie portrayals of heart attacks are notorious for featuring dramatic scenes with elderly actors grabbing their chests, gasping for air as they call out for help. Though many heart attacks do mirror these kinds of scenes, it may surprise you that a large percentage of heart attacks do not play out like they do on the big screen.
In reality, much of what you understand about heart attacks may not be true. UnityPoint Health – Des Moines reveals the truth about the “Hollywood” heart attack myth.
Hollywood Myth #1: Having a heart attack always involves obvious symptoms.
A heart attack does not always have obvious symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath and cold sweats. In fact, a heart attack can happen without a person knowing it. Silent heart attacks account for nearly 25 percent of all cases and are oftentimes mistaken for indigestion, nausea, muscle pain or a mild to serious case of the flu.
Hollywood Myth #2: Heart attacks only happen to “old men.”
The truth of the matter is, everyone is susceptible to having a heart attack– men and women, young and old. Though men are still more at risk for heart disease, each year, heart disease claims more female lives than breast cancer and lung cancer combined. Heart attacks typically happen to men between the ages of 50 and 60 and women between the ages of 65 and 70, but can occur in people much younger and older.
Hollywood Myth #3: Heart attacks only happen during dramatic, stressful events.
Heart attacks can happen anytime, anywhere. High stress is oftentimes a trigger for heart attacks, but it is important to know that they can occur when people least expect it. Many heart attacks happen while people are resting, working and exercising. Silent heart attacks may go unrecognized altogether, making these victims more susceptible to having more severe heart attacks in the future.
Hollywood Myth #4: Heart attacks always happen suddenly.
Heart attacks are the result of the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries, which decrease the flow of oxygen to the heart. The build up of plaque is a process that can take many years to translate into serious, life-threatening heart complications. Additionally, heart attacks are linked to many preexisting medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and obesity.
Knowing the subtle truth about heart attacks can save lives. Preventing heart attacks and other heart disease starts with visiting your doctor regularly and developing heart-healthy habits for life.
If you or someone you know is experiencing heart attack symptoms, please call 911 immediately and ask to be taken to UnityPoint Health – Des Moines.