Recognizing the early signs and symptoms of a heart attack can help save lives. About 750,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack each year, and about 116,000 die. Many of these patient experienced early symptoms.*
About 85 percent of heart damage occurs within the first two hours of a heart attack. It's important to know the subtle danger signs of a possible heart attack and act upon them immediately before heart damage occurs.**
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Warning Signs of a Possible Heart Attack
If you experience any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
According to the American Heart Association® (AHA), men and women often experience different heart attack symptoms, and they may also have different heart attack triggers. Most often, men experience physical exhaustion before a heart attack. Meanwhile, women most often report having emotional stress prior to a heart attack.
Heart Attack Symptoms for Men
Men often (but not always) experience what are known as "classic" signs of a heart attack:
- Discomfort in the center of the chest that may feel like pressure, squeezing or fullness that goes away and comes back
- Chest discomfort accompanied by fainting, lightheadedness, shortness of breath or nausea
- Pain that spreads to the neck, shoulders or arms
Heart Attack Symptoms for Women
- Pressure, squeezing or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and then returns
- Shortness of breath with or without chest pain or pressure
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, experiencing nausea or feeling lightheaded
- Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, stomach or jaw
- While chest pain and discomfort are common symptoms of heart attack for both women and men, women may be more likely than men to have some of the other symptoms mentioned above, including nausea and vomiting, back or jaw pain and shortness of breath
If you or someone near you is experiencing the signs of a possible heart attack, call 9-1-1. Time lost is muscle lost.
Risk Factors for Men and Women
These are the general heart attack risk factors. Discuss your risk with your doctor.
- Family history
- High blood pressure
- Overweight or obesity
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Using tobacco products
- Metabolic disease, diabetes or other illnesses
Here's how to be a heart hero in only seven steps, according to the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association:
- Call 9-1-1 (or ask someone to call) if you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse.
- Kneel beside the person who needs help.
- Place the heel of one hand on the center of the chest.
- Place the heel of the other hand atop the first, and lace your fingers together.
- Position yourself so your shoulders are directly over your hands. Keep your arms straight.
- Push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of a familiar song that has 100-120 beats per minute. For example, Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees, MMMBop by Hanson, or Can't Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake (be sure to let the chest rise completely between compressions).
- Keep pushing until you see obvious signs of life, like breathing, or until an EMS professional or trained responder can take over, an AED becomes available, you become too exhausted, or the scene becomes unsafe.
*American College of Cardiology
**American Heart Association