To remain healthy, the heart requires a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients, like any muscle in the body. Two large coronary arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. If one of these arteries becomes blocked suddenly, a portion of the heart is starved of oxygen. If the heart is deprived of oxygen too long, heart tissue will die. This condition is a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction.
A heart attack is often diagnosed by the presence of symptoms. It is critical that you are able to recognize symptoms of a heart attack so that you or someone with you can call 911 immediately. The quicker emergency medical help is available, the less heart tissue will die and the better the chances of survival.
Heart attack symptoms: when to call
Call 911 immediately if you think that you or a loved one is having a heart attack. Tell the emergency team you’re having a heart attack. Do not drive to the hospital.
Symptoms of heart attack vary somewhat for men and women.
- Sudden onset of severe fatigue, like the flu, often with vague chest discomfort
- Discomfort, fullness, tightness, squeezing or pressure in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or comes and goes
- Pressure or pain that spreads to the upper back, shoulders, neck, jaw or arms
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
- Dizziness or nausea
- Clammy sweats, heart flutters or paleness
- Unexplained feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness, especially with exertion
- Severe stomach or abdominal pain
- Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, pain or discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes
- Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms
- Pain, dizziness, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath
- Any chest discomfort that causes anxiety or concern
- Any of the above symptoms that disappear with rest, then return with exertion
- Pain that lasts for 10 to 15 minutes while you are resting should be evaluated immediately.