A heart attack doesn't always strike out of the blue. Often, there are unusual symptoms in the days and weeks leading up to an attack.
It's not surprising that many people don't recognize these symptoms, however, since some of them may not be ones you expect, in fact, some are actually quite strange indeed.
So, what are some of these strange symptoms, which you should be aware of?
1. Jaw, Ear, Neck, or Shoulder Pain
Sharp pain in the chest and arm is an indicator of heart attack, however you may instead feel pain in your neck or shoulder area. Another area where pain is experienced is between the shoulder blades.
One way to know it's not just muscle pain, is if the pain comes and goes, rather than persisting unrelieved.
If you notice the pain seems to move around, it's important to talk to your doctor.
2. Exhaustion or Fatigue
We all get tired from time to time, but if you have experienced crushing or extreme fatigue in the past weeks or months, this may be a sign of heart trouble.
This is the kind of tiredness that lays you out in bed, not the kind of tiredness you can work through.
3. Indigestion or Nausea
Nausea and stomach pain are one of the most overlooked symptoms of heart attack, and it's not surprising, since most cases of stomach ache and nausea aren't actually caused by a heart attack.
But, symptoms can range from mild indigestion to severe nausea, cramping, and vomiting.
Being familiar with your own digestive habits will help you to notice anything different. If something seems to be out of the ordinary, particularly if it comes on pretty suddenly, chat to your doctor for advice.
4. Fast Pulse or Heart Rate
A rapid and irregular pulse and heart rate (or ventricular tachycardia) can sometimes come before a heart attack.
This may come on suddenly, and you will feel as if your heart is beating very fast and hard, perhaps like you have just been running uphill, however these episodes aren't brought on by exertion.
5. Breathlessness or Dizziness
Most people fail to think of heart problems when they notice these symptoms because they associate breathing with the lungs.
But, when your heart doesn't getting enough blood, that means it also doesn't get enough oxygen, and this can make you feel light-headed, dizzy or breathless.
6. Sexual Dysfunction
This is a symptom which many find difficult to discuss with their doctor, however you shouldn't feel embarrassed.
Having trouble achieving or keeping an erection is common in men with heart problems.
In fact, one survey found that two out of three men had suffered from erectile dysfunction before they were diagnosed with heart trouble.
7. Flu-Like Symptoms
Prior to a heart attack, some people experience clammy skin, as well as feeling light-headed, tired, and weak. These are common flu symptoms, and may lead you to believe you are coming down with the flu.
You may also notice persistent wheezing, or chronic coughing that doesn't resolve itself. This may be a sign of heart disease, caused by fluid accumulating in the lungs as a result of poor circulation.
If you experience severe flu-like symptoms, with no high temperature, talk to your doctor.
As you can see, the symptoms of a heart attack are not always clear cut. So, be on the look out for clusters of symptoms which come on all at once, but aren't typical of how you normally feel.
If you are unsure, don't wait around, have a chat with your doctor immediately.
Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, health writer, busy wife, and mum. Her goal is to promote good health and better lifestyles in the online community. For more healthy eating tips check out her blog.