Warning Signs of the Real Life Heart Attack

The American Heart Association refers to it as “the movie heart attack”: an overweight man starts panting, grabs his chest and then collapses. In this situation, it is clear a heart attack has occurred.

Most heart attacks do not follow the script. The majority of heart attacks begin gradually with mild pain and discomfort. This can make it much less obvious that a heart attack is happening. For this reason, many people wait several hours before seeking treatment. This could be a fatal mistake.

According to the American Heart Association, some signs that a heart attack is happening are:

• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
• Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Although the most common sign of a heart attack is chest pain, many heart attacks involve no chest pain at all. In fact, according to an article from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, one study found that one-third of patients who had heart attacks had no chest pain.

The biggest lesson, then, is this—if you think you might be experiencing a heart attack, don’t wait.  Call 911 for help immediately.

For more information regarding heart attacks, including risk factors and prevention, see the Heart Attack section at the American Heart Association website.

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