Heart Attack Signs
What are the early symptoms of a heart attack and how can I be prepared if I or a loved one am experiencing signs?
A heart attack may cause various types of discomfort that are not generally perceived as "pain" and are not necessarily in the chest. The discomfort may:
- Feel like indigestion
- May not be in a specific spot
- Be felt in the chest, the inner arm (especially the left arm), the jaw or teeth, or other parts of the body
- Get worse with activity and subside with rest
- Come and go, and increase over time; each new pain recurs sooner, lasts longer and feels worse
- Be accompanied by sweating, shortness of breath or flu-like symptoms
If you are experiencing the above symptoms, go straight to your nearest hospital ER or call 911.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do this right away. Don't wait.
A delay of even a few hours could literally make the difference between life and death, or the difference between no heart damage and severe damage.
- Begin receiving life-saving treatment right away
- Be in consultation with your primary care physician or cardiologist
- Be admitted to the hospital for further observation
- Or, be transferred to another facility for further evaluation and treatment
"It doesn't really hurt, the discomfort keeps going away by itself, so it can't be anything serious."
Not enough people know about early heart attack symptoms. Because you have read this, you now know more about them than most people. Share what you have learned. Stress how important it is to pay attention to these symptoms and get early medical attention when these symptoms occur.
"I haven't got time today; I'll go tomorrow” or “If it gets worse, I'll go."
If something is seriously wrong, taking a few hours to check it out now could add years to your life. That's a very wise investment of your time, no matter how busy you are.
"It’s nothing; I can handle it."
Some people don't want to overreact because they would feel foolish if they had no problem after all. Others don't want to appear weak or out of control. But it is smart, not foolish—a sign of strength, not weakness—to handle potential problems right away.
"I don't want to worry my spouse, my family, my friends."
Imagine how much worse your loved ones and friends would feel if they found out you had the chance to protect your health but didn't take it.
"I don't want to be the center of attention."
People don't ever really "die" of embarrassment but they can risk their lives in trying to avoid it. Immediate access to trained medical personnel may mean the difference between life and death. Immediate care can best be obtained by calling 911. Whatever you do, just don't waste valuable time.
"If I go to the ER and it isn't a heart attack, I’ll have wasted people's time."
No one in the ER would think that you've wasted their time—or yours either. If they do tests and the results come back normal, doctors will have a baseline to compare against if you have similar problems again. You may find out you have some other health problem that needs attention. Most important, you will know where to go and what to do if you or someone you care about ever has early heart attack symptoms.