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Heart attacks occur when an artery supplying the heart with blood and oxygen becomes blocked, usually by a build-up of fatty plaques known as cholesterol. Heart attacks fall under the umbrella of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels. Myocardial ischemia is when blood flow to the heart is reduced, preventing the heart muscle from receiving enough oxygen. Experiencing persistent hiccups could indicate you may be at risk of the serious health condition.
Not all signs of a heart attack are the obvious chest, shoulder or jaw pain. Often, they can be less obvious including having hiccups.
Having persistent or intractable hiccups could be one of the first signs of heart muscle damage or heart attack.
This is a little-known fact about those pesky hiccups, so a person definitely should notify their GP if they are having significant trouble.
Persistent hiccups generally equates to hiccups for several days or weeks that just won’t seem to go away.
What the study said
In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, hiccups as a sign of chronic myocardial ischemia was investigated.
The study noted: “Chronic myocardial ischemia often presents with a fairly typical history, but patients can present with atypical chest pain or pain referred to a less-typical location like the jaw, stomach, or back.
“Sometimes patients describe symptoms usually not attributed to heart disease, like indigestion or feeling cold and clammy, in the presence or absence of chest pain.
“This paper describes two unusual presentations of myocardial ischemia in patients whose main symptom was hiccups, the first intractable hiccups over months and the second effort-induced hiccups. Both also described atypical chest pain.”
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What the expert said
Dr Joshua Davenport, an emergency physician is unsure as to why some people know exhibit the obvious symptoms of a heart attack.
“Many people, especially diabetics, can have unusual presentations for heart problems,” he explains.
Dr Davenport is also quick to point out that hiccups are not typically caused by something severe like a heart attack without a person having other concerning symptoms.
He added that hiccups as a warning sign of a heart attack are “an exception and very rare.”
As for why a heart problem might have triggered hiccups, Dr Davenport says that when the heart is not getting enough oxygen because less blood is flowing through a diseased artery, this can irritate the nerves of the diaphragm, the breathing muscle underneath the heart.
Hiccups are caused by a spasmodic contraction of the diaphragm, typically on the left side, added Dr David Johnson, a professor of medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk.
Dr Johnson said: “The more common reasons why nerves running to the diaphragm get irritated and cause hiccups are a distended stomach.
“Other causes include drinking alcohol or lots of soda, chewing gum or smoking.”
Hiccups, which occur when the diaphragm and respiratory organs encounter an abrupt, involuntary spasm, happen to almost everyone on occasion.
This causes the stomach to become distended and thus hiccups occur.
Usually hiccups last for a brief period and are nothing to worry about.
However, when the hiccups last a significantly long time or are out of the ordinary, a serious health issue may be at hand.
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