Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health

Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

It is important to understand what happens during a heart attack and to be able to quickly recognize the symptoms in order t to respond and act in a timely manner.  Time is of the essence in matters of the heart.

If blood supply to the heart muscle is cut off, a heart attack can result.  Cells in the heart muscle do not receive enough oxygen and begin to die.  The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.  Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, and having had a previous heart attack, stroke, or diabetes can increase the chance of having a heart attack.

heart graphicAccording to the American Heart Association, about 700,000 Americans have an initial heart attack and another 500,000 have a recurrent heart attack each year.  According to a CDC report, almost half of the cardiac deaths in 1999 occurred before emergency services and hospital treatment could be administered.

It is important to recognize the signs of a heart attack and to act immediately by calling 911.  A person’s chances of surviving a heart attack are increased if emergency treatment is given to the victim as soon as possible. 

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath (feeling like you can’t get enough air)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling faint or woozy
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat

Men and women may experience slightly different symptoms of heart attack.  Men are more likely to experience the classic symptoms mentioned above, while women’s symptoms may vary slightly and be somewhat vague.  Some women may feel very tired, sometimes for days or weeks before a heart attack occurs.  Women may also have heartburn, a cough, or heart flutters or lose their appetite.  The main thing to remember is that if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, don’t wait, seek medical attention and/or call 911 immediately. 

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