Knowing how to identify the symptoms of a heart attack and seeking care quickly can save the life of someone you love or even your own.
To help physicians more quickly and accurately evaluate if patients are having a heart attack, new, highly sensitive blood tests are in development and are designed to detect even minor heart attacks. It is important to know the symptoms of heart attack to save time at the hospital and expedite treatment.
COMMON SIGNS OF A HEART ATTACK
While the signs of heart attack can be different for men and women, the most common symptoms for both genders include:
CHEST PAIN OR DISCOMFORT
Pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest is the most common heart attack symptom in both men and women. The pain or discomfort for both genders may be mild or severe and can feel like pressure, fullness or squeezing. The pain may come and go or be constant. It’s important to remember that only half of women who have heart attacks experience chest pain and that people with diabetes may not feel chest pain at all due to nerve damage.
UPPER BODY DISCOMFORT
You may have pain or discomfort in one or both arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw or upper part of the stomach above your belly button.
SHORTNESS OF BREATH
You may become short of breath at rest or while doing minor physical activity. This may be your only symptom. Or, it may happen before or at the same time as chest pain or discomfort.
OTHER HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS
During a heart attack, men are more likely than women to break out in a cold sweat and report pain in the left arm. Women are somewhat more likely to experience nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, and pain in the jaw, back and shoulders.
EVERY MINUTE MATTERS
If you think you’re having a heart attack—even if you’re not sure—call an ambulance immediately. If one isn’t available, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Avoiding heart attacks and strokes: Don't be a victim, protect yourself. Geneva, World Health Organization. 2005.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease? September 26, 2011. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hdw/signs.html
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack? December 17, 2013. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heartattack/signs.html