A heart attack, also known as an acute myocardial infarction, is the blockage of blood supply and oxygen to the heart muscle causing irreversible tissue damage. The blockage usually occurs in the coronary arteries, the main blood vessels leading to the heart muscle. Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States affecting both men and women. Worldwide, three million people have a heart attack each year, with more than one million of those deaths occurring in the United States alone. Lowering risk factors and early intervention can help lower these numbers and save lives. Once the heart tissue dies, there is no way of bringing it back or repairing the damage. You can have one or several heart attacks and they can be fatal if not treated right away. Symptoms of a heart attack should never be ignored neither should you attempt treatment at home. This is a medical emergency and if you or someone you know has symptoms of a heart attack call 9-1-1 right away.
Please note that the symptoms of heart attacks can be vague. Women also experience them differently than men do. If you have any of the following symptoms and you feel like something is not right, get emergency medical attention:
Chest pain/Chest discomfort. One of the most prominent symptoms of a heart attack is chest pain or a tightening in the chest. This is usually felt on the left side of the chest and may radiate to the back and down the left arm. The pain, discomfort, or pressure may come and go or persist. Some people think it is heartburn and ignore the pain. The chest area may feel like there is:
Some people describe it as feeling like a “toothache.” If you have any symptoms of chest pain seek medical care immediately.
Radiating discomfort/upper body. Chest pain may radiate to the jaw, neck, shoulder, or upper abdomen. It may also radiate down the left arm.
Trouble breathing. You may feel like you can’t get your breath and feel winded. This occurs without any type of physical activity that normally makes you short of breath.
Nausea. Women commonly feel this symptom and it is often their only symptom, but both men and women may experience nausea with a heart attack.
Cold sweats. You may feel clammy and break out in cold sweats, even if the weather is cold and you do not feel warm.
Dizziness. Feeling lightheaded or dizzy for no apparent reason can be a sign of a heart attack.
Fatigue. Excessive fatigue, especially for days before other symptoms, could be the onset of a heart attack. This symptom is also very common in women before a heart attack.
Impending doom. Feeling like something very bad is about to happen.
The combination of two, three, or more of the above symptoms raises the possibility that you are having a heart attack.