According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 40 seconds someone in the United States suffers a heart attack. These attacks can be deadly but the outcome is greatly affected by how quickly symptoms are recognized and treatment is received.
A heart attack occurs when there’s a sudden obstruction of blood flow to the heart muscle. It’s typically caused by a blood clot or plaque formation in the arteries. The resulting obstruction and absence of blood flow causes the heart muscle to become weak and dysfunctional and, eventually, begin to die.
There are several factors that can increase your risk of having a heart attack. Keep in mind, the more of these risk factors that you have, the more likely it is that you’ll eventually have a heart attack.
- Family history
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
The classic heart attack symptom is chest pain. However, these symptoms may also indicate you’re having a heart attack:
- Chest pressure
- Jaw, arm, neck or back pain
- Profuse sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling like your heart is racing or pounding
- Weakness or feeling lightheaded
- Unusual fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
Both men and women can experience the same heart attack symptoms. But it’s important to note that women are more likely to experience non-typical symptoms, such as unusual fatigue, nausea or vomiting.
If you experience heart attack symptoms, call 9-1-1 to seek immediate medical attention. That’s because the longer an artery is obstructed, the more likely it is that permanent heart damage will occur. If you get to the hospital early enough, treatment can restore blood to the heart and damage can be minimized – or even reversed. This is a case when it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if you aren’t sure if you’re having a heart attack, seek emergency care.
Edward-Elmhurst Health is a national leader in heart care. Our experienced medical teams work together to help patients achieve the best outcome, every step of the way. We treat more than 40,000 heart and vascular patients annually.