When you’re having a heart attack, every second counts. Learn to recognise the signs and symptoms of heart attack and seek treatment quickly.
Heart attack symptoms vary in type and severity. Symptoms can be mild and come on slowly over the course of several hours or they may be more intense and sudden.
While sudden chest pain may be the most common heart attack symptom, not all people experience chest pain during a heart attack, with one-third of people with heart attacks having no chest pain.
People with diabetes and older adults are more likely to experience other heart attack symptoms. And symptoms of heart attacks are different in men and women.
Most common symptoms
Chest pain: Most heart attacks involve pain or discomfort in the centre or left-centre of the chest. Pain may be mild or severe. The pain may feel like tightness, fullness, heavy pressure, crushing or squeezing. It can also feel like heartburn or indigestion. Chest pain usually lasts more than a few minutes. Sometimes it goes away and comes back.
Upper body discomfort: You may feel pain or discomfort in your arms, jaw, neck, back (especially between the shoulders), or upper part of the stomach (above the belly button).
Shortness of breath: You may experience trouble breathing or feelings of breathlessness when you are at rest or doing very slight activity that wouldn't normally cause breathlessness.
Other common symptoms
Light-headedness or sudden dizziness. Cold sweat or clammy skin. Nausea and vomiting. Heart flutters or palpitations (especially in women). Cough (especially in women). Heartburn (especially in women). Extreme fatigue or exhaustion (this symptom may last for days or even weeks leading up to a heart attack and is more common in women than men).
What to do
A heart attack is a medical emergency. The quicker you get to the hospital, the better the chance that you will survive the heart attack and minimise damage to the heart muscle. Most heart attack sufferers wait two or more hours after symptoms first appear before seeking medical treatment.
Follow these steps if you or someone around you is having heart attack symptoms:
Call 999 immediately: Do not wait more than five minutes. If you take nitroglycerin for chest pain that comes on with exertion and goes away with rest, take it immediately. If chest pain doesn't go away within five minutes, call 999.
Sit down and stay calm: Try to relax and remain calm while you wait for help to arrive.
Note the time: If you are able to do so, record the time your heart attack symptoms began and what you were doing when they started.
This information will help the doctors treating you when you reach the hospital. If you are having heart attack symptoms and for some reason cannot call 999, have someone else drive you to the hospital.
Never drive yourself unless there is absolutely no other choice.
Contact Heartwise for advice on living a strong, active life after a cardiac event contact Heartwise on 086 2422388.