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Heart Smarts

Heart Attack Warning Signs

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States for both men and women. And more than 1.2 million Americans suffer from heart attacks each year.

While heart attacks have warning signs, like chest pain, these signs are often ignored. Many people wait too long before getting help. We want you to recognize the early symptoms of a heart attack.

Signs of a heart attack can include:

  • Chest discomfort, often in the center of the chest. The discomfort 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.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This may include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath may occur with or before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

Treatments for heart attack are most effective when they occur in the early stages of chest pain. Heart attacks are often viewed as a man’s problem. But more women in the United States die of heart disease each year than men. Women often experience signs and symptoms that are different from those that men experience.

Heart attack signs in women sometimes go unnoticed.

They include the following:

  • Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest, spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw.
  • Light-headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort
  • Lower chest discomfort
  • Back pain
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Don’t delay! Don’t take chances! If you have chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.

Why Call 911?

Because every minute counts when having a heart attack, calling 911 starts treatment earlier.

  • 911 dispatchers are trained to locate you quickly
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can diagnosis a heart attack by using an electrocardiogram (ECG) and also initiate early treatment
  • EMS is able to radio ahead to the St. Joseph Medical Center Emergency Department (ED) that you are on your way. The ED physician and staff are ready for you when you arrive through the doors.