By Bernard Freeman
Signs of a Heart Attack
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people’s chances of dying from heart attacks have doubled. It’s why it is more important than ever to be aware of the signs of a heart attack and know when you should seek help.
While one in five heart attacks are “silent,” others have symptoms that alert you to get help immediately. The sooner you get help after a heart attack, the more likely you are to survive.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the most common signs of a heart attack are:
- Chest pains, usually in the center or left side of the chest; there is a feeling of pressure, squeezing or fullness.
- Upper body pain or discomfort; this usually happens in the arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw or upper stomach above the belly button.
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing — either while resting or while active.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Heartburn or stomach ache.
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded or fatigued.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat.
Many of those symptoms are signs of other things, which is why it is important to know your family history and your risk for heart disease. Sometimes the symptoms of a heart attack show up without prior notice. Other times they may creep up on you, developing over hours, days or even weeks before the heart attack happens.
While a sudden onset of several of those symptoms should send you to the emergency room, you may want to call your doctor even if you are just feeling unusually tired for several days or if you have a sudden onset of pain or trouble breathing. It’s also good to talk to your doctor if you have an existing health issue that has worsened.
Not all heart attacks are the same. Even if you have had a heart attack in the past, know that a new heart attack may not act the same. You may have different symptoms. That’s why it is always good to talk to your doctor when something changes.
Silent heart attacks
While silent heart attacks are defined by not having major symptoms, there are minor ones that are worth paying attention to. These might include discomfort in your jaw, arms, or chest that goes away after resting, getting easily tired or having shortness of breath.
Responding to symptoms
If you have any of these symptoms, or witness someone who does, call 911. Acting fast can save a life. An ambulance is your best option because the EMTs can start treatment right away and you will be seen more quickly once you arrive in the emergency room.