Signs and Symptoms of Heart Attack

Heart attack occurs when the blood supplying oxygen to the heart is greatly reduced or completely cut off. This can be the result of a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances, also known as plaque. Your blood supply can then begin to clot around the plaque, blocking the flow to the heart, depriving it of the oxygen necessary to continue working. The resulting damage, or even death, of the affected heart muscle is called a heart attack.

735000 heart attacks annually

Signs and symptoms

Know the signs and symptoms of heart attack. Call 911 immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Chest discomfort – Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest. It can last more than a few minutes or go away and come back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Upper body discomfort – You may have pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath – This may occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs – You may have a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Different symptoms for women

Women may have the symptoms described above. But they also may have different symptoms from men.

  • Cold sweat
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or constant indigestion
  • Pressure between the shoulder blades
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness or extreme fatigue

Not all of these signs occur in every heart attack. Sometimes they go away and return. If you experience some of these, call 911 fast!

Risk factors

While heart attack can strike anyone, there are certain factors that will increase your risk that are beyond your control.

  • Age: Your risk of heart attack increases with age.
  • Ethnic background: You are at greater risk for heart attack if you're black.
  • Heredity: You're at greater risk for heart attack if your father or brother had heart disease before the age of 55 and/or your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65.
  • Gender: In the past, men have been at greater risk than women, but the rate of heart attack in women has been increasing since the 1980s.
Additionally, if you suffer from any of the following you have a higher risk for not only heart attack, but stroke as well:

same risks for heart attack and stroke

The good news is that these risks can be reduced. Learn how to reduce your risk for heart attack starting today.