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Heart attack symptoms: Know when it's an emergency

Published On: Jul 29 2014 11:44:53 AM CDT
Updated On: Aug 13 2014 10:20:25 PM CDT
ekg with heart and stethoscope

By Mayo Clinic News Network

Find out what symptoms can signal a heart attack and when you should seek emergency medical help.

  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • This discomfort or pain can feel like a tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in your chest lasting more than a few minutes. This discomfort may come and go.
  • Upper body pain
  • Pain or discomfort may spread beyond your chest to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or jaw. You may have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.
  • Stomach pain
  • Pain may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.
  • Shortness of breath
  • You may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. This often occurs before you develop chest discomfort, or you may not experience any chest discomfort.
  • Anxiety
  • You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you're having a panic attack for no apparent reason.
  • Lightheadedness
  • In addition to chest pressure, you may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.
  • Sweating
  • You may suddenly break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.

Most heart attacks begin with subtle symptoms — with only discomfort that often is not described as pain. The chest discomfort may come and go. Don't be tempted to downplay your symptoms or brush them off as indigestion or anxiety.

Don't "tough out" heart attack symptoms for more than five minutes. Call 911 or other emergency medical services for help.

If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, if there are absolutely no other options.

Heart attack symptoms vary widely. For instance, you may have only minor chest discomfort while someone else has excruciating pain. One thing applies to everyone, though: If you suspect you're having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-attack/in-depth/heart-attack-symptoms/art-20047744/