Heart Attack Warning Signs
Don't be fooled by the typical "movie" heart attack into thinking that heart attacks are sudden, intense, and victims clutch their chest and fall over. While that can happen, most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort, and symptoms may even come and go. According to the American Heart Association, the warning signs are:
- Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both of the arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath: This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort, but it can occur before the chest discomfort.
- Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
If you or someone you know is experiencing chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the above signs, call 911 and get to a hospital emergency department as soon as possible. When you are dealing with a heart attack, seconds count.
Cardiac arrest strikes immediately and without warning. If it occurs, call 911 and begin CPR immediately. According to the American Heart Association, the following are signs of cardiac arrest:
- Sudden loss of responsiveness. No response to gentle shaking.
- No normal breathing. The victim does not take a normal breath when you check for several seconds.
- No signs of circulation. No movement or coughing.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
According to the American Heart Association, the risk factors for cardiac disease and heart attack include:
- Smoking: Smoking is the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death. A smoker's risk of heart attack is more than twice that of a non-smoker.
- Physical inactivity: Less fit, less active persons have a 30 to 50 percent greater risk of developing high blood pressure.
- High blood cholesterol: In general, people who have a total cholesterol of 240 mg/dL have twice the risk of heart attack as people who have a cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL.
- High blood pressure: If you are an adult and your blood pressure level is 140/90 mm/Hg or above, you could be at risk for heart disease, stroke and other medical problems.
- Weight: Obesity is unhealthy because excess weight increases the strain on the heart. People who have excess body fat are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors.
For more information about these controllable risk factors and tips on decreasing your risk for cardiac disease, visit the American Heart Association website.
Stroke Warning Signs
According to the American Stroke Association, not all of the following warning signs occur with every stroke. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of these signs, call 911 and get to a hospital as quickly as possible.
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
In the case of sudden cardiac arrest, CPR can be the difference between life and death. Follow this link for a list of CPR classes offered by Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford.
Mended Hearts Support Group
Sharing experiences with others who have gone through much of the same thing can be an important link in the chain of treatment, recovery and living a healthy lifestyle. Mended Hearts is an education and support group for people and their families who live with heart disease or other heart problems. The group meets every other month at Texas Health HEB. For more information, call 817-281-1536.