About 790,000 people in the U.S. have heart attacks each year, according to the American Heart Association. Of those, about 114,000 die, often because they didn’t recognize the early signs of a heart attack and, therefore, did not seek help fast enough.
National Heart Month is the perfect time to recognize that you can reduce the risk of death and damage to your heart by knowing the early warning signs of a heart attack. Also, it is important to call 9-1-1 immediately if you or a loved one experience these symptoms.
- Chest discomfort: You may feel pressure, squeezing, burning, indigestion-type discomfort, fullness or pain in the chest that lasts for 15 minutes or longer. This discomfort may be associated with shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, weakness or lightheadedness.
- Upper body discomfort: You may feel this in the arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw or stomach that is persistent for 15 minutes or longer. This may be associated with shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, weakness or lightheadedness.
- Shortness of breath: You may have an unusual shortness of breath that lasts for more than 15 minutes
- Other signs: You may feel cold sweats, nausea, weakness, fainting and lightheadedness.
Women may experience different heart attack symptoms than men. Women are more likely to experience fatigue, shortness of breath, or weakness – instead of typical chest pain.
Some people who experience the symptoms of a heart attack mistakenly ignore the signs, thinking that it’s something less serious that will pass.
“It is not uncommon for patients to miss the early warning signs of a heart attack or attribute the symptoms to indigestion, digestive troubles or muscle pains in the chest” said David Brill, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.
“Fatigue, weakness, fainting or near fainting episodes, profound shortness of breath, or profuse sweating can be the only symptoms or signs of a heart attack and should not be ignored,” he adds.
Dr. Brill stresses the importance of recognizing the signs and then taking quick action to seek medical treatment because it gives doctors a better chance to save the heart muscle from permanent damage.
Know the Mild Symptoms
Even if your symptoms appear mild or subtle, you must call 9-1-1.
Mild chest symptoms include:
- Tightness or squeezing
Half of people experiencing mild symptoms of a heart attack could have prevented the heart attack with early treatment, before any damage to the heart occurs.