Yes, chest pain is one of the classic signs of a heart attack, but it’s not the only one. In fact, there are a lot of lesser-known heart attack symptoms that are often ignored or overlooked. In addition, women even experience different symptoms from men.
A heart attack is a medical emergency, and it is important that you understand the risk factors and symptoms so that you can seek immediate help for yourself and also assist someone else.
The sooner you get to an emergency room, the sooner you can get treatment to reduce the damage to the heart muscle.
In some cases, it may be necessary for yourself or bystanders to manually help using CPR until emergency medical personnel arrive. The chances of surviving a heart attack are better the sooner emergency treatment begins.
Heart Disease is a Leading Cause of Death
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one person dies every 37 seconds from cardiovascular disease—which equals more than a half-million Americans a year.
With statistics like that, you can’t afford to ignore any signs of a heart attack.
You Can Save a Life
If you suspect that someone is experiencing a heart attack/cardiac arrest, they are unresponsive, and they are not breathing or only gasping for air, you may need to perform CPR until an ambulance arrives.
If you don’t know how to perform CPR, you can take a class through the American Red Cross.
What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?
Don’t wait to get help if you experience any of these heart attack warning signs. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call 911 if you experience:
- Chest pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Back pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Excessive fatigue or weakness
- Jaw Pain
- Pain that travels down one or both arms
- Feeling of fullness
Survive. Don’t Drive. Call 9-1-1 immediately!
How Long Do Heart Attack Symptoms Last?
This varies from patient to patient. In some, the pain can be continuous while for others, it might start and stop again. These symptoms can last for a couple of minutes or several hours.
Can Heart Attack Symptoms Last for Days?
While many heart attacks occur suddenly, warning signs such as recurrent chest pain may occur days or even weeks in advance.
Men Versus Women: What is the difference?
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain (angina) or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Men normally feel pain and numbness in the left arm or side of the chest, but in women, these symptoms may appear on the right side. In addition:
- Women may feel completely exhausted, drained, dizzy or nauseous.
- Women may feel upper back pain that travels up into their jaw.
- Women may think their stomach pain is the flu, heartburn or an ulcer.
Lesser-Known Heart Attack Symptoms
Sometimes the signs and symptoms are different. The person may not complain about pain or pressure in the chest. Be alert for the following:
- A sharp or “knife-like” pain that occurs with coughing or breathing.
- Pain that spreads above the jawbone or into the lower body.
- Difficult or labored breathing.
Did you ever think that nausea could be a sign of a heart attack? Dizziness and lightheadedness are also indicators. You may also find yourself breaking out in a cold sweat.
Usually, these symptoms accompany some of the others listed above. Because there are several different causes of nausea and dizziness, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you have these symptoms.
What are the risk factors for Heart Disease and Heart Attack?
Several health conditions, your lifestyle, your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack. These include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Abnormal cholesterol and high triglycerides
- Lack of physical activity
- Your age (the older you are, the more likely)
- You have someone in your family with a heart attack
- You are African-American
You can also use this calculator to assess your heart attack risk.
What Does a Heart Attack Feel Like?
Some heart attacks are sudden, painful, and intense. They give the “classic” signs of chest pain—often described as feeling like there’s an elephant sitting on the chest.
But what does a heart attack feel like? You’ll find the answer often varies.
While most heart attacks do cause chest discomfort, did you realize that this pain may come and go?
During a heart attack, you may also feel pain or discomfort in your:
- One or both arms (particularly the left arm)
What Happens in Your Body During a Heart Attack?
You hear about heart attacks all the time, but what actually happens during one?
Essentially, blood flows into the heart to provide oxygen so that the heart muscle can effectively do its job. During a heart attack, this blood flow is either cut off completely or severely reduced. This can be caused by arteries that are narrowed due to excess cholesterol.
In some cases, a cardiac catheterization is needed to determine the cause of a heart attack and the extent to which the arteries are blocked.
You can clearly see what happens during a heart attack through this video, courtesy of the American Heart Association.
We Offer the Most Advanced Cardiac Care in the Region
At the foundation of our heart center is an experienced, compassionate team working with state-of-the-art technology. We work with expert cardiologists from CMC Cardiology to ensure that you’re receiving only the best care.
We also work with Duke Health professionals to utilize the latest evidence-based treatments. This enhances the quality of heart care available throughout our community.
This means that we have access to the leading experts in the country, working together to provide the best care practices.
Whether you’re seeking sophisticated services in our cardiac catheterization lab or you need early heart attack care, we have the guidance and treatment you need.
Not sure about the state of your heart health? Do you have a high risk of a heart attack? Contact us today to schedule an appointment.