Learn the signs of a heart attack
Not knowing the signs of a heart attack can be deadly. All too often, people having a heart attack wait too long to get help.
By learning the signs, you may be able to save a loved one’s life—or your own.
Not everyone who has a heart attack feels sudden, crushing pain. While some heart attacks come on suddenly and intensely, most start more slowly, and cause only mild pain. The classic signs of a heart attack are:
• Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and returns. It can feel like pain, uncomfortable pressure, fullness or squeezing.
• Pain or discomfort elsewhere in the upper body: one or both arms, the back, stomach or jaw.
• Shortness of breath, with or without discomfort in the chest.
• Breaking out in a cold sweat, lightheadedness or nausea.
The more of these signs you have, the more likely it is that you are having a heart attack.
In women, chest pain or discomfort are the most common symptoms of a heart attack. But they are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Some women can have a heart attack without feeling any chest pressure. Women may mistake heart attack symptoms for less dangerous health conditions, such as acid reflux or the flu.
If you think you might be having a heart attack, don’t wait more than five minutes to call 911. When treating a heart attack, every minute matters. Call even if you are not sure the symptoms you are experiencing really indicate a heart attack. Don’t drive yourself to the hospital; have someone else drive you. By calling 911, emergency medical personnel will be able to begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.
Listen to your body and don’t ignore chest discomfort. Receiving quick treatment can save your life
David Brogno, M.D., is Nyack Hospital Chief of Cardiology, Columbia Doctors of the Hudson Valley.