Signs of a Heart Attack

Signs of a Heart Attack

In the United States, a heart attack occurs every 43 seconds (AMA 2015). It is caused when flood flow is severely reduced or cut off completely, restricting blood carrying oxygen from reaching the heart muscle. Blood flow can be restricted because of a buildup of fat, cholesterol or plaque. Another cause of a heart attack is a spasm in the coronary artery that restricts blood flow to part of the heart muscle. A heart attack can be fatal, therefore it’s important to be able to recognize when you or someone around you is suffering from a heart attack.

Symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Uncomfortable pressure or squeezing pain in the center of your chest that last longer than a few minutes
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out into a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness

Though both men and women can suffer from the same heart attack symptoms, it is more common for women to experience shortness of breath, nausea, cold sweats, and back/jaw pain.

The key for treatment is to recognize early warning signs. Don’t wait, act fast. If you or someone near you exhibits any of these signs of having a heart attack call 9-1-1. Even if you are unsure if someone is suffering from a heart attack, dial emergency response. In the case of heart attacks, seconds and minutes matter! Emergency response is almost always the fastest way to obtain lifesaving treatment.

Think you can recognize when someone is having a heart attack? Take this quiz to find out!

Suffering from a heart attack is symptom of heart disease. Any form of heart disease can be prevented. Here are some tips to staying heart healthy (AMA 2015):

  • Know your personal risk for heart disease, visit your physician for your annual exam
  • If you haven’t already, quite smoking
  • Engage in routine exercise, at least 30 minutes of walking several days a week
  • Modify your/your family diet, cook lean proteins and consume more fruits and vegetables versus processed foods
  • Relieve stress in your life through exercise, hobbies, etc.



American Heart Association (AMA). June 2016. Warning Signs of a Heart Attack. Available from:


American Heart Association (AMA). July 2015. Heart Attack Symptoms in Women. Available from: