What are the warning signs of a heart attack?
According to the American Heart Association, the classic warning signs are:
- An uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, then disappears and returns
- Pain that radiates to the shoulders, stomach, back, arms, neck, or jaw
- Chest discomfort with dizziness, fainting, nausea, sweating, fluttering heartbeat, or shortness of breath
- Women may also have these warning signs, which are less common:
- Unusual chest pain, stomach, or abdominal pain, which may feel like indigestion or the need to belch
- Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
- Unexplained weakness, fatigue, or anxiety
- Palpitations (an irregular heart beat), rapid heart beat, paleness, or breaking into a cold sweat
- Pain in the jaw or back
- Nausea or vomiting
If you or anyone you know is having these symptoms, call 911 or get to a hospital IMMEDIATELY.
Not all the symptoms show up in every attack. Don't wait, because the heart muscle starts to die during an attack and every minute counts. Remember: it's better to be safe than sorry.
Why are the warning signs of a heart attack sometimes different for women?
The jury is still out on that one. What is clear is that the classic symptoms of a heart attack were initially based on studies involving men.
"The classic male symptoms are chest pain, arm pain, neck pain and palpitations," says George Sopko, MD, a cardiologist with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "If women have chest discomfort, they will not have these three other [symptoms]," explains Sopko. He adds that this may in part be due to the different ways that men and women express themselves. "Women are in touch with their bodies and are descriptive about complaints, whereas men often have to be hit with a brick between the eyes to complain."
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack. American Heart Association. www.americanheart.org Heart Attack and Angina (Chest Pain) Heart Information Network http://www.heartinfo.org/hrtatkang.html
Heart Attack, Stroke, and Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs. American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3053#Heart_Attack
Interview with George Sopko, MD, a cardiologist with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
American Heart Association. Heart Attack, Stroke and Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3053