Do You Know the Signs of a Heart Attack?

heart attackWhen in doubt, always call 911. Early intervention saves lives.

Would you know if you were having a heart attack? Many symptoms mimic a heart attack such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chest muscle pain or anxiety. It can be difficult to know when your symptoms are heart related. Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack can help you decide what to do.

In a study of more than 2,000 heart attack patients, those who recognized heart attack symptoms early and received medical attention within 90 minutes did far better than those who waited for treatment.

No two heart attacks are alike. Heart attacks may cause sudden, intense pain or pressure in the center of the chest. They may also come on more slowly with little or no pain, but cause vague symptoms such as weakness or indigestion. These are the symptoms that people may ignore. Additionally, a woman’s symptoms may differ from a man’s, advises the American Heart Association (AHA).

When every second counts, it’s important to know the signs of a heart attack. If you or someone you are with is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Symptoms Common in Men and Women

Chest discomfort: Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach

Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort

Additional symptoms: Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea and lightheadedness

Symptoms more common in women than men:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Back or jaw pain

Women may also experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Indigestion or gas-like pain
  • Pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Upper back pressure/pain between shoulder blades

Prevention Is Key

Taking steps to prevent heart attacks can reduce your risk. The AHA recommends the following:

  • Visit your doctor to get screened for heart disease, learn your risk and take preventative steps.
  • Start a physician-approved exercise program.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • If you smoke, quit.

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Review Date: January 21, 2016
Reviewed By: Perry Pitkow, MD
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