What Do I Do If Im Having A Heart Attack
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms:
- Dial 911 immediately, follow the operators instructions and get to a hospital right away.
- Dont drive yourself to the hospital.
- Try to stay as calm as possible and take deep, slow breaths while you wait for the emergency responders.
Women who think theyre healthy often misread the symptoms of a heart attack because they dont think it could happen to them. Thats why its crucial to learn about heart attack, know your numbers and live heart-healthy.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
Last Reviewed: Oct 9, 2020
What Can I Expect If I Have This Condition
After youve had a heart attack, youre at a higher risk of a similar occurrence. Your healthcare provider will likely recommend follow-up monitoring, testing and care to avoid future heart attacks. Some of these include:
- Heart scans: Similar to the methods used to diagnose a heart attack, these can assess the effects of your heart attack and determine if you have permanent heart damage. They can also look for signs of heart and circulatory problems that increase the chance of future heart attacks.
- Stress test: Your provider may also recommend that you undergo a stress test. These are heart tests and scans that take place while youre exercising. Stress tests can show potential problems that stand out only when your heart is working harder.
- Cardiac rehabilitation: Your healthcare provider may recommend that you go through a cardiac rehabilitation program during your recovery from a heart attack. These programs are medically supervised and focus on helping you improve your overall health and lifestyle, which can prevent another heart attack. Cardiac rehabilitation generally involves a team of providers and experts, including doctors, physical therapists, nurses, exercise specialists/trainers, dietitians, health educators, counselors and more.
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What’s The Difference Between Indigestion And A Heart Attack
Indigestion, or heartburn, is a feeling that usually comes on after eating. It causes a burning and uncomfortable sensation in your chest and abdomen, and often a sour taste in your mouth.If you havent experienced heartburn or indigestion before and you’re experiencing persistent burning chest pain or chest pain combined with other heart attack symptoms, phone 999 immediately.If youre prone to heartburn or indigestion and youre experiencing the same symptoms as usual, take the steps you usually would to ease your discomfort, such as taking some medicine and/or drinking water.If the burning feeling in your chests persists, or it begins to spread to your arms, neck or jaw, phone 999 immediately as you may be having a heart attack.
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What To Do If You Experience Heart Attack Symptoms
Unlike the classic crushing chest pain, these symptoms dont guarantee that your heart is in immediate danger. But they could indicate that trouble could be brewing down the road, so make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can.
If youre fortunate enough to have symptoms, listen to your body and get them checked out, Park says.
If your doctor suspects that a heart attack could be looming, he might recommend an EKG, a test measures the hearts electrical activity and shows if your heart is damaged. He might also call for a coronary angiogram, which detects blockages in your arteries.
And if you experience any classic symptoms that signal youre having a heart attack right now, call 911 ASAP. These include chest pressure or tightness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, breaking out into a cold sweat, or discomfort in the arms, neck, or jaw.
Of course, the best way to prevent a heart attack is to improve overall health by lowering high blood pressure, maintaining a normal body weight, and abstaining from smoking.
What Is A Heart Attack
Heart attack signs and symptoms in men and women: Chest pain or discomfort Shortness of breath Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, arm, or shoulder Feeling nauseous, light-headed, or unusually tired.
A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, happens when a part of the heart muscle doesnt get enough blood.
The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle.
Coronary artery disease is the main cause of heart attack. A less common cause is a severe spasm, or sudden contraction, of a coronary artery that can stop blood flow to the heart muscle.
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Are You Finding It Hard To Get Medical Help
We know that many of you are experiencing delays to treatment at this time, or have questions and concerns about getting medical help. We’ve created this set of information to help you with these issues.
If you are having emergency heart attack symptoms, do not wait for an appointment and call 999 immediately.
About Half Of All Heart Attacks Are Mistaken For Less Serious Problems And Can Increase Your Risk Of Dying From Coronary Artery Disease
Image: goir/Getty Images
You can have a heart attack and not even know it. A silent heart attack, known as a silent myocardial infarction , account for 45% of heart attacks and strike men more than women.
They are described as silent because when they occur, their symptoms lack the intensity of a classic heart attack, such as extreme chest pain and pressure stabbing pain in the arm, neck, or jaw sudden shortness of breath sweating, and dizziness.
SMI symptoms can feel so mild, and be so brief, they often get confused for regular discomfort or another less serious problem, and thus men ignore them, says Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of the vascular disease prevention program at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Womens Hospital.
For instance, men may feel fatigue or physical discomfort and chalk it up to overwork, poor sleep, or some general age-related ache or pain. Other typical symptoms like mild pain in the throat or chest can be confused with gastric reflux, indigestion, and heartburn.
Also, the location of pain is sometimes misunderstood. With SMI, you may feel discomfort in the center of the chest and not a sharp pain on the left side of the chest, which many people associate with a heart attack. People can even feel completely normal during an SMI and afterward, too, which further adds to the chance of missing the warning signs, says Dr. Plutzky.
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What To Do Once You Notice Heart Attack Symptoms
The better you can recognize signs of heart problems, the more likely youll be to take them seriously if they ever appearand to respond quickly. You may not experience all, or any, heart attack warning signs. However, f you suspect a heart attack, call paramedics and get to an emergency room quickly.
Ask your doctor if chewing up an aspirin is advisable if heart attack symptoms develop. Thats a common first response, but clear it with your physician first.
If it turns out to be an anxiety attack, well, you can get treatment for that and be grateful your heart is still okay. And take preventative steps that include exercise, sufficient sleep, and a heart-healthy diet.
HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS IN WOMEN
Do women experience different heart attack symptoms than men? While they can experience many of the same symptoms discussed here, including chest pain, theyre also more likely than men to feel symptoms that may not seem related to the heart.
Commonly reported signs of heart attack in women, especially those over the age of 50, can include pain in one or both arms pain in the jaw, neck, or upper back areas shortness of breath nausea and even vomiting and cold sweat. For more, please see these University Health News posts:
Warning Signs Your Body Gives You Before A Heart Attack
Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in both men and women worldwide. Contrast to what you may see in a movie, the signs of a heart attack can be hard to miss. “Two-thirds of women will have less-typical, non-Hollywood heart attack symptoms,” says C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.
Though symptoms like chest tightness and upper body pain are more obvious, heart attacks present a host of symptoms that can be easily mistaken for another ailment . Identifying the signs of a heart attack and seeking early intervention can be the difference between life or death. Here are the most common symptoms to look out for.
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Angina And Heart Attacks
Angina is a syndrome caused by the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart becoming restricted.
People with angina can experience similar symptoms to a heart attack, but they usually happen during exercise and pass within a few minutes.
However, occasionally, people with angina can have a heart attack. Its important to recognise the difference between the symptoms of angina and those of a heart attack. The best way to do this is to remember that the symptoms of angina can be controlled with medicine, but symptoms of a heart attack cannot.
If you have angina, you may have been prescribed medicine that improves your symptoms within 5 minutes. If the first dose does not work, a second dose can be taken after 5 minutes, and a third dose after a further 5 minutes.
If the pain persists, despite taking 3 doses of glyceryl trinitrate over 15 minutes, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
Page last reviewed: 28 November 2019 Next review due: 28 November 2022
Common Signs Of Heart Attack And Stroke
A heart attack occurs when heart disease has reached the point where blood stops flowing to the muscle of the heart. The most common sign of heart attack in men is chest discomfort that includes squeezing, pressure, or pain. It used to be thought that only chest pain was a sign of heart attack, but its possible to have discomfort that doesnt register as painful. This discomfort may also be present in your arms, back, neck, abdomen, or jaw.
During a heart attack, you may have:
- shortness of breath
- profuse sweating for no apparent reason
Symptoms of a stroke include numbness or weakness that only happens on one side of your body. The numbness may occur in your face, arms, or legs. Other symptoms of stroke include:
- confusion, difficulty speaking, or trouble comprehending others
- imbalance or loss of coordination
- changes in vision
- intense headache
Many of these changes occur suddenly and without warning. Call 911 immediately if you experience these symptoms.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Attack
The major symptoms of a heart attack are
- Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint. You may also break out into a cold sweat.
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders.
- Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort.
Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms. Learn more about women and heart disease.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.1Learn more facts about heart attack and heart disease.
Early Symptoms Don’t Really Sound Like The Hollywood Heart Attack Experience Is That Typical
There are two main ways that people present with heart attacks, Dr. Xu says:
- Sudden A person may or may not have any symptoms previously, but all at once a plaque deposit ruptures, triggering a chain of events and a sudden heart attack.
- Gradual The other presentation happens slowly as coronary disease progresses. In this situation, an artery is getting narrower over time. When the artery is narrowed down to more than 70 percent, a person will start to have warning symptoms ahead of time, especially with physical exertion.
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Do Hormones Affect Your Risk Of A Heart Attack
Many women use prescription hormone drugs for birth control or for reducingsymptoms of menopause . Could thesedrugs jeopardize your heart health?
“Birth control pills can increase your risk of having a blood clot, eitherin the heart or in the legs, and they can also raise your blood pressure.So, if you have a history of high blood pressure or clotting problems,other types of contraception might be a better fit for you,” says Colliver.”But for most young women, it’s safe to take birth control medication.”
Colliver notes that women over the age of 50 are at an increased risk forheart disease and should completely avoid estrogen and progesterone drugs,if possible. “If your overall risk of heart attack is extremely low and youdesperately need relief from hot flashes and other postmenopausal symptoms,then hormone replacement therapy may be fine for you,” says Colliver. “Butafter the age of 65, we really try to avoid using them at all because theydo increase the risk of heart disease and potentially breast cancer.”
What Are The Early Signs Of A Heart Attack
There are heart attack symptoms in women that are different from heart attack symptoms in men. But the common signs and symptoms they usually share are as follows:
- Chest pain or discomfort: The discomfort usually lasts for more than a few minutes or it may go away and come back. The discomfort may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain at the center of the chest.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: This may include pain or discomfort in the back, jaw, stomach or in one or both arms.
- Shortness of breath: This may occur with, before or without chest pain or discomfort.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Nausea or light-headedness
Meanwhile, heart attack symptoms in women sometimes go unnoticed. These include the following:
- Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest, spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw
- Unusual fatigue
- Treating or managing conditions that can be a risk factors of heart attack such as diabetes
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When To Call 9
Any time you think you might be having a heart attack, dont ignore it. even if you are not sure that youre having a heart attack.
- Acting fast can limit damage to your heart and save your life. The 9-1-1 operator or emergency medical services personnel can give you advice that can help prevent damage to your heart.
- An ambulance is the best and safest way to get to the hospital. Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. EMS personnel can check how you are doing and start tests and lifesaving medicines right away. People who arrive by ambulance often get faster treatment at the hospital.
Every minute matters. Never delay calling 9-1-1, taking aspirin or doing anything else you think might help.
Knowing the difference between stable angina and a heart attack is important.
- The pain from angina usually happens after physical activity and goes away in a few minutes when you rest or take medicine to treat it.
- The pain from a heart attack is more serious than the pain from angina. Heart attack pain doesnt go away when you rest or take medicine.
If you dont know whether your chest pain is angina or a heart attack,
Learn What a Heart Attack Feels Like
A heart attack often causes cardiogenic shock. Its important to learn the warning signs of a heart attack and what to do if you are experiencing symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes To Prevent Heart Risks
Though the thought of you or a loved one experiencing a cardiac event can be frightening, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. To improve your heart health and reduce your risk of a heart attack, try implementing these simple steps recommend by the AHA:
- Avoid or quit smoking Smoking can increase the chances of contracting a stroke or heart attack.
- Drink in moderation Excessive drinking can raise blood pressure and increase the chances of stroke and other health diseases.
- Lower high blood pressure Take recommended medication and shakeoff the desire for salt to reach an optimal blood pressure thatâs less than 120/80 mmHg.
- Maintain a healthy weight Try to watch your weight. Obesity can increase the risks of insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Select a hearthealthy diet Choose a diet with nutrientrich foods and emphasize vegetables, fruits and whole grains to positively impact various controllable heartrisk factors.
- Stay active everyday A minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderateintensity physical activity can lower your blood pressure, weight and cholesterol.
- Stress less Find healthy ways to manage your stress. Studies show stress can enhance the risk factors for stroke and heart diseases.
Talk to your doctor about your heart health. Your doctor can work with you to review your family and medical history and develop a plan to reduce your risk of heart disease and better your overall health.
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