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Warning Signs of a Heart Attack by Priyanka ,  Jul 9, 2013

Not all heart attacks begin with the sudden, crushing chest pain that often is shown on TV or in the movies. In one study, for example, one-third of the patients who had heart attacks had no chest pain. These patients were more likely to be older, female, or diabetic.

The symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person. Some people can have few symptoms and are surprised to learn they've had a heart attack. If you've already had a heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same for another one. It is important for you to know the most common symptoms of a heart attack and also remember these facts:

  • Heart attacks can start slowly and cause only mild pain or discomfort. Symptoms can be mild or intense and sudden. Symptoms also may come and go over several hours.
  • People who have high blood sugar (diabetes) may have no symptoms or very mild ones.
  • The most common symptom, in both men and women, is chest pain or discomfort.
  • Women are somewhat more likely to have shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, usual tiredness (sometimes for days), and pain in the back, shoulders, and jaw.

Some people don't have symptoms at all. Heart attacks that occur without any symptoms or with very mild symptoms are called silent heart attacks.

The one thing all heart attacks have in common is that the sooner you receive treatment, the less damage will be done.

Many people think that heart attacks are a “man’s problem,” yet heart disease is actually the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. In men, the risk for heart attack increases significantly after the age of 45. In women, heart attacks are more likely to occur in the years after menopause (usually, after the age of 50). However, younger men and women can also have heart attacks.

Besides age, factors that increase the risk for heart attack are:

  • A previous heart attack or procedure to open up the coronary arteries

  • Family history of early heart disease:

       –Father or brother diagnosed before age 55

       –Mother or sister diagnosed before age 65

  • Diabetes mellitus

  • High blood cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Cigarette smoking

  • Overweight

  • Physical inactivity

If you have one or more of these factors, see your health care provider to find out how to reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

  • 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 arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Learn about the warning signs of heart attack in women.

Thousands of Canadians die from heart attacks every year because they don't receive medical treatment quickly enough. Learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack so you can react quickly to save a life It is important to understand that warning signs can vary from person to person and they may not always be sudden or severe. Although chest pain or discomfort is the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women, some people will not experience chest pain at all, while others will experience only mild chest pain or discomfort. Others may experience one symptom, while some experience a combination.

Pain• Chest discomfort (uncomfortable chest pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness)
Discomfort in neck, jaw,shoulder, arms, back• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back)
Shortness of breath• Shortness of breath
Sweating• Sweating
Nausea• Nausea
Light headedness• Light-headedness

Typical heart attack symptoms

Symptom Description
Chest discomfort or pain This discomfort or pain can feel like a tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes. This discomfort may come and go.
Upper body pain Pain or discomfort may spread beyond your chest to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or jaw. You may have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.
Stomach pain Pain may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.
Shortness of breath You may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. This often occurs before you develop chest discomfort or you may not experience any chest discomfort.
Anxiety You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you're having a panic attack for no apparent reason.
Lightheadedness In addition to chest pressure, you may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.
Sweating You may suddenly break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
Nausea and vomiting You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.

Most heart attacks begin with subtle symptoms — with only discomfort that often is not described as pain. The chest discomfort may come and go. Don't be tempted to downplay your symptoms or brush them off as indigestion or anxiety.

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