Heart Attack

If you think you may be having a heart attack, call 911. Do not drive yourself to the emergency room!

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Each year, more than a million people experience a heart attack. Four hundred thousand will die. Fortunately, if you seek early medical help, the prognosis for recovery is good. More than 90 percent of those visiting the emergency room for a heart attack can be treated successfully. Learning how to identify the early warning signs can save your life.

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs, in most cases, when a vessel supplying the heart muscle with blood and oxygen becomes completely blocked. The vessel has become narrowed by a slow buildup of fatty deposits, made up mostly of cholesterol.

When a clot occurs in this narrowed vessel, it completely blocks the supply of blood to the heart muscle. That part of the muscle will begin to die if the individual does not immediately seek medical attention.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. This can occur with or before chest discomfort.
  • Sweating. If you begin to sweat profusely with no temperature changes, this can be a sign a heart attack is imminent.
  • Heartburn or indigestion. According to the American Heart Association, many patients delay seeking treatment for heart attack because they believe they are experience indigestion. If you have pain that radiates up the esophagus, seek emergency medical treatment.
  • Nausea. Intense and sudden waves of nausea can accompany a heart attack.
  • Dizziness. Dizziness or double vision is another heart attack symptom that often occurs prior to pain.
  • Feelings of weakness or anxiety. Difficulty concentrating or feelings of weakness, particularly those that occur suddenly, also are signs of a heart attack.
  • Fluttering Heartbeat. A heart rate that feels unsteady or like it is fluttering, or the feeling that your pulse is racing also can signal a heart attack.

Laugh While You Learn

“Mom, I think you’re having a heart attack.”
“Do I look like the type of person who has a heart attack?”

Elizabeth Banks is known for her comedic acting style, but as a heart attack survivor, she acknowledges there’s nothing funny about heart disease. Maybe you can connect with her character in this entertaining short video she produced to educate women about signs of a heart attack.

Just For Women

Females, and sometimes the elderly, do not show the classic heart attack signs. Women often complain of vague pain in the lower back along with indigestion. Any pain or discomfort in the torso combine with nausea should be taken seriously.

Heart attack symptoms in women can be different and include the following:

  • Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest spreading to the neck, and shoulder or jaw pain
  • Chest discomfort with light-headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath
  • Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort
  • Lower chest discomfort
  • Back pain
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea