The lesser-known symptoms of heart attack we can all watch for.

A strange and sudden jaw pain

Image Ken Schuler Srmh Heart Image Ken Schuler Srmh Heart Image Ken Schuler Srmh Heart

Artist Ken Schuler of Linville, Virginia had an appointment for a presurgical physical. He was scheduled to have shoulder surgery soon to repair a torn rotator cuff.

Ken, age 62, admitted to his doctor that he hadn’t been feeling well. As part of the presurgical physical, his doctor performed an electrocardiogram (EKG), a heart rhythm test. It showed that Ken’s heartbeat was slow. The doctor ordered blood work and sent Ken home, telling him to take it easy.

Early the next morning, the doctor’s office called: Ken had suffered a heart attack.

“It was kind of shocking,” Ken says. “It definitely set me back for a second.”

Ken’s wife drove him immediately to the Sentara RMH Medical Center emergency department. 

Subtle signs

Ken had no personal or family history of heart disease, and he hadn’t experienced any of the more obvious symptoms of a heart attack.  

However, he had experienced annoying jaw and neck pain several days earlier.

“It’s certainly not the most common symptom of a heart attack, but it’s not particularly uncommon, either,” says Dr. Brad Rash, who saw Ken in the Emergency Department. “Whenever a person complains of jaw pain, the heart is typically on the list of things we consider.”

Dr. Rash performed a cardiac catheterization that revealed an 80 percent blockage in Ken’s right coronary artery. Interventional cardiologist Dr. David McLaughlin was called in to open the partially blocked artery and insert a stent, a thin metal tube, to keep the artery open. 

Preventing another heart attack

Ken now takes aspirin regularly as a preventive measure to thin his blood and help prevent clot formation within the stent. He had previously experienced bad reactions to aspirin, so he went through a desensitization process in the hospital.

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