February is American Heart Awareness
Most heart attacks involve discomfort in
the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away
and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or
Your heart muscle needs oxygen to survive.
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart
muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because coronary
arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood flow can slowly become narrow
from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are
called plaque. This slow process is known as atherosclerosis. When a plaque in
a heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque. This blood clot
can block the blood flow through the heart muscle. When the heart muscle is
starved for oxygen and nutrients, it is called ischemia. When damage or death
of part of the heart muscle occurs because of ischemia, it is called a heart
attack or myocardial infarction (MI). About every 40 seconds, someone in the
United States has a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Don’t wait to get help if you experience
any of these heart attack warning signs. Although some heart attacks are sudden
and intense, most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to
your body — and call 911 if you feel:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks
involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few
minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable
pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in
one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without
- Other signs may include breaking out
in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Symptoms Vary Between Men and Women
As with men, women's most common heart
attack symptom is chest pain 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.
Even if you're not sure it's a heart
attack, have it checked out. Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe
your own. Don't wait - call 911 or your emergency response number. Call 911! Calling
911 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency
medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an
hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also
trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who
arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too. It
is best to call EMS for rapid transport to the emergency room.