According to the CDC, 610,000 Americans die because of a heart attack every year. Unfortunately, many people don't realize what is happening to them or call for help until it is too late. Heart attacks can manifest differently in women than in men, sometimes sidestepping traditional symptoms altogether. If you think you are experiencing a heart attack, seek emergency medical attention immediately by calling an ambulance or going to the ER. The sooner it gets caught, the higher the chance of survival.
In every ER in the country, chest pain will take you to the front of the line and for a good reason: this is the classic heart attack symptom. Pain from a heart attack can strike during physical exertion but also at rest when you aren't doing anything. Different people describe this kind of pain differently -- from intense pressure or fullness to tingling and sharp pain.
It's more common to experience pain in the left arm with a heart attack, but one can also develop pain in the right arm or both arms. People who are having an attack feel this kind of pain because they are experiencing decreased blood flow to the heart. The wide variation in heart attack symptoms means the person may have arm pain without chest pain, or both.
Radiating pain to the left side of the neck or jaw can be a symptom of a heart attack. The pain is typically described as a tightness, pressure, or ache in the neck or jaw.
An overwhelming sense of fatigue, lethargy and general tiredness may show up days, weeks or even months before a heart attack. Though it is sometimes the earliest sign, fatigue often gets overlooked because it is so vague. This fatigue won't be associated with sleep deprivation or a mental health issue like depression; it will seemingly have no explanation.
As the heart struggles and fails to deliver oxygen, this adversely affects the brain. Without enough oxygen, a person will feel dizzy and light-headed or even faint. This will ultimately affect blood pressure, as well. Dizziness and lightheadedness may be early signs of a heart attack and usually occur in conjunction with other symptoms.
An irregular heartbeat may be a sign of a serious heart condition or may precede a heart attack, although an irregular heart rhythm has other causes as well. Always take an irregular heartbeat seriously and seek medical attention immediately, especially if it's associated with other symptoms.
Many people who have heart attacks report shortness of breath in the weeks before a heart attack. But, like fatigue, it is often overlooked. The pressure and not being able to take a full breath may seem like a lung problem like bronchitis, but it can be one of the first signs of heart problems.
Most commonly reported in women, stomach pains and gastrointestinal (GI) tract upset is yet another sign of a heart attack, albeit an abnormal one. Stomach pains, nausea, and indigestion have a countless causes, but the likelihood of them indicating a heart attack rises if these symptoms are associated with shortness of breath, sweating, or dizziness.
Another less common symptom seen mostly in women is back pain. Radiated pain from the chest causes the feeling to occur in the mid or lower back. Back pain can be present with or without the much more common signs, such as chest pain, and can even radiate to the legs.
In the minutes before a heart attack, you may begin sweating excessively. It is generally described as cold sweats and has recently been added to the accepted symptoms of a heart attack. Any combination of these symptoms may precede or occur during a heart attack. To avoid life-threatening situations, talk to your physician and always pursue emergency medical care in case of chest pain.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.