Save Lives by Knowing the Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Heart attacks are a major category of heart disease, with somebody in the U.S. dying from one every 40 seconds, Dr. Janette Wheat, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff professor and Cooperative Extension Program human development specialist, said.

“All adults should focus on their heart health,” she said. “Individuals, their families, friends and communities should take the time to learn the important signs and symptoms of a heart attack and how to respond.” 

Recognizing that someone might be having a heart attack and calling emergency services (9-1-1) are crucial for optimizing access to lifesaving emergency cardiac care and receipt of advanced treatments and improving survival, Dr. Wheat said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the five common symptoms of a heart attack are: 

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed or faint. You may also break out into a cold sweat.
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders.
  • Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms. 

“If someone is suspected to be having a heart attack, 9-1-1 should be called immediately,” Dr. Wheat said. “The sooner emergency treatment begins, the better are their chances of surviving.”

A report in Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report says that although the percentage of persons who are aware of heart attack symptoms increased from 39.6% in 2008 to 50.2% in 2017, sociodemographic disparities existed, she said.

“More education is needed to widely disseminate information about how to recognize a possible heart attack and how to contact lifesaving emergency services,” she said. “Love and nurture yourself – focus on your heart.”

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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