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Signs and Symptoms

A person dialing 911.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The five major symptoms of a heart attack are—

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
  • Shortness of breath.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 9–1–1 immediately.

Heart Attack Signs

If the blood supply to the heart muscle is cut off, a heart attack can result. Cells in the heart muscle do not receive enough oxygen and begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart. Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, increased age, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and having had a previous heart attack or family history of stroke, obesity, or diabetes can increase a person's chances of having a heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, about 785,000 Americans have an initial heart attack and another 470,000 have a recurrent heart attack each year.1 According to a CDC report,2 almost half of the cardiac deaths in 1999 occurred before emergency services and hospital treatment could be administered.

It is important to recognize the signs of a heart attack and to act immediately by calling 9–1–1. A person's chances of surviving a heart attack are increased if emergency treatment is given to the victim as soon as possible.

References

  1. Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. Epub 2011 Dec 15.
  2. CDC. State-specific mortality from sudden cardiac death—United States, 1999. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2002;51:123-6.

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