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Uncommon signs of a cardiac scare

Uncommon signs of a cardiac scare

What a 38-year-old ad guy thought was acidity was in fact a heart attack. Mumbai cardiologists discuss uncommon signs of a cardiac scare

The uneasiness 38-year-old advertising professional Sachin Anand experienced one night at his Napean Sea Road home was quickly attributed to the double burger and 'large' fries he had devoured that afternoon. "I assumed it was acidity," he says of the sixmonth-old episode. "I thought an antacid would clear the indigestion, and I even tried throwing up, but couldn't."

Within minutes, Anand experienced a shooting pain in his chest, which exacerbated, while the feeling of nausea got worse. "His jaw went stiff, and he went cold," recalls his mother Renu, who rushed him to Breach Candy hospital.

What Anand thought was indigestion was, in fact, a massive heart attack says his cardiologist Dr Dev Pahlajani. The chest pain, he explains, was due to blockages caused by fatty deposits in an artery, cutting off blood supply to the heart. This is called myocardial infarction and could prove to be fatal.

Although most people associate angina or heart attack with excruciating pain in the centre of chest or behind breast bone, it's often that the body sends uncommon signals of a heart attack, that patients are unable to decipher. Dr Ajay Chaurasia, head of cardiology at Topiwala National Medical College and BYL Nair Charitable Hospital, says, "Pain related to heart attack is usually retrosternal or felt behind the breast bone, and can mimic a heartburn caused by oesophagitis or acidity."

We get the experts to highlight unusual signs of a cardiac scare that should raise a red flag.

Sign 1: Constant burping 
You may again mistake this for a gastrointestinal problem, but Pahlajani warns that belching, especially while walking, could be a symptom of angina or heart trouble. "This occurs due to the redistribution of blood to the intestines and stomach just before a heart attack," he says.

Sign 2: Persistent pain in gums, teeth 
People with periodontal or gum disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer heart disease than those with healthy gums, warn doctors. That's because the same bacteria that cause gum disease can also spark inflammation inside the body, damaging blood vessels. "So also," says Chaurasia, "pain in heart can radiate up to the jaw."

Don't ignore a toothache or pain behind the ears. "Pain occurs in this region because of the referred pain in the distribution of the nerves that arise from the thoracic spine," explains Pahlajani. "Occasionally, some patients also come to me with unexplained headaches, especially in the occipital region of the head."

Sign 3: Poor performance in bed 
A poor heart condition, apart from dyslipidemia or abnormal amount of cholesterol and fat in the blood, uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension, may also affect your sexual performance. A man experiences an erection when blood is pumped into the penis. Difficulty in maintaining an erection is on account of poor circulation. Clogged arteries are where poor sexual performance and heart disease meet. Arteries harden due to buildup of plaque. The smaller arteries in the body, such as those in the penis, are the first to get plugged up. Plaque reduces blood flow in the penis, making an erection difficult. So, erectile dysfunction is an alert to look for blockage in larger arteries, like in the heart.

Sign 4: Exhaustion 
If you feel tired all day and have difficulty performing simple tasks like walking, climbing stairs, driving or carrying groceries, visit a cardiologist. "Low output of blood from the heart, the body's pumping station, into the rest of the body can be a sign too," says Pahlajani.

The common signals
Shooting pain in chest and left arm: 
Occurs because the same spinal segment supplies the heart and left upper limb
Chest pain after a meal: Blood supply to the intestines increases after meals in order to help digest food, and therefore blood is diverted from the heart to the intestine, which precipitates chest pain, if there's a blockage says Pahlajani
Excessive sweating and palpitation: A feeling that you are skipping a heartbeat or fluttering in the chest is a sign of arrhythmias (irregular heart beat).

Sudden loss of consciousness, dizziness, breathlessness with no chest pain (common among diabetics)

The upside of a heart scare 

The sudden heart attack Sachin Anand (right) suffered has "positively" changed his life. The advertising professional who kept irregular work hours now sleeps for at least seven hours every night, makes time for a one-hour daily walk despite his hectic schedule. He has ended up dropping 14 kilos. "I have given up junk food, red meat, smoking, colas and alcohol. Occasionally, I sip on a glass of red wine," he says.

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