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Know the Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

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About Heart Attack

  • A heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart is cut off. Cells in the heart muscle that do not receive enough oxygen-carrying blood begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.1
  • About 15% of people who have a heart attack will die from it.1
  • Almost half of sudden cardiac deaths happen outside a hospital.2
  • Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, having had a previous heart attack or stroke, or having diabetes can increase your chance of developing heart disease and having a heart attack.
  • It is important to recognize the signs of a heart attack and to act immediately by calling 911. A person's chance of surviving a heart attack increases if emergency treatment is administered as soon as possible.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.

CDC's Public Health Efforts Related to Heart Attack

For More Information

For more information on heart disease visit our Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/ and the Web sites of the following CDC partners:

References

  1. Mozzafarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2015 Update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;131:e29-e322.
  2. Zheng ZJ, Croft JB, Giles WH, Ayala CI, Greenlund KJ, Keenan NL, Neff L, Wattigney WA, Mensah GA. State Specific Mortality from Sudden Cardiac Death: United States, 1999. MMWR 2002;51(6):123–126.
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