Know the signs of heart attack and stroke

Every second counts. Learn the signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke.

Woman experience heart attack symptoms

The difference between heart attack and stroke

Heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked and heart muscle cells begin to die. Restoring blood flow quickly stops the damage and preserves heart function.

Stroke occurs when blood flow is blocked to the brain. According to the National Stroke Association, two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke, making fast treatment essential to survival and recovery.

Warning signs of heart attack in women

  • Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest, spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw
  • Chest discomfort with light-headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath
  • Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Lower chest discomfort
  • Back pain
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Warning signs of heart attack in men

  • Chest pain or discomfort that can feel like uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the chest. It may last for more than a few minutes, or it can come and go.
  • Discomfort or pain in other areas, such as one or both arms, the neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, light-headedness, nausea, or sweating
  • Abdominal discomfort that may feel like indigestion

Steve's story

When he suffered a heart attack, Steve and his wife were so thankful for the compassionate, coordinated care he received from HSHS St. John’s Hospital and the Prairie Heart Institute. The emergency department saved Steve’s life, and cardiac rehab at Prairie has given him new energy to enjoy the outdoor activities he loves. The Prairie Heart Institute at HSHS St. John’s Hospital is here with you for life-saving heart care. 

Young girl concerned about grandma

Signs and symptoms of stroke

Remember the acronym FAST

  • Face Drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arm Weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 911: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

*Additional stroke signs include: sudden severe headache with no known cause, sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; or sudden confusion or trouble understanding.