Men: Heed Warning Signs of Heart Attack

It’s well known that more men have heart attacks than women, but many men ignore their cardiac health or don’t recognize warning signs. To further complicate matters, cardiologists can’t diagnose heart disease until the condition is advanced enough to cause high cholesterol or a blockage – problems that increase the risk of heart attack.

Most heart disease is coronary heart disease, in which arterial plaque build-up narrows blood vessels, lessening the amount of blood and oxygen that reaches the heart. While most men don’t have heart attacks until later in life – the average man gets his first heart attack at age 65 – plaque has been found in the hearts of 20-year-olds. That means that arterial plaque can build up for decades before men develop major problems.

There are, however, certain symptoms that indicate coronary heart disease. For example, daytime fatigue and lethargy are common in men with heart disease. If routine activities suddenly become exhausting, or if men find themselves easily winded, they should speak to a doctor.

Likewise, the male organ serves as the barometer of a man’s overall health, with dysfunction often acting as a precursor for other existing or potential health issues. In a study of 1,500 men, which was published in “Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association,” found that men with both erectile dysfunction (ED) and cardiovascular disease were twice as likely to have a heart attack than men with cardiovascular disease, but no ED.

What’s the connection? The male organ contains arteries like the ones in the heart, only much smaller in scale, so it takes less arterial plaque to create a blockage. ED, then, can function as an early warning sign –  men may still have time before the arterial plaque in the heart builds up enough to cause a serious blockage or heart attack.

Because ED may be linked to heart disease, men should consult specialists before trying over-the-counter treatments. Doctors who specifically deal with sexual dysfunction issues, such as physicians with Boston Medical Group, can identify underlying issues, such as heart disease, that may be causing ED.

Finally, men experiencing a squeezing pain or pressure in the chest, or angina, should see a doctor for a cardiac exam. Chest pain may radiate to other areas of the body, such as the jaw, arms or back. Angina usually occurs with exercise, during times of emotional stress or after eating, when the heart demands more oxygen than clogged blood vessels can provide. The most common cause of angina is coronary heart disease.

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