A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. The blockage is most often a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances, which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart (coronary arteries). Sometimes, a plaque can rupture and form a clot that blocks blood flow. The interrupted blood flow can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle.
Common heart attack signs and symptoms include:
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
Prevention And First Quick Treatments
Heart attack symptoms vary Not all people who have heart attacks have the same symptoms or have the same severity of symptoms. Some people have mild pain; others have more severe pain. Some people have no symptoms. For others, the first sign may be sudden cardiac arrest. However, the more signs and symptoms you have, the greater the chance you’re having a heart attack. Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but many people have warning signs and symptoms hours, days or weeks in advance. The earliest warning might be recurrent chest pain or pressure (angina) that’s triggered by activity and relieved by rest. Angina is caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart. When to see a doctor Act immediately. Some people wait too long because they don’t recognize the important signs and symptoms.
Take these steps:
- • Call for emergency medical help. If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, don’t hesitate. Immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only if there are no other options. Because your condition can worsen, driving yourself puts you and others at risk.
- • Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed to you by a doctor. Take it as instructed while awaiting emergency help.
- • Take aspirin, if recommended. Taking aspirin during a heart attack could reduce heart damage by helping to keep your blood from clotting. Aspirin can interact with other medications, however, so don’t take an aspirin unless your doctor or emergency medical personnel recommend it. Don’t delay calling 911 to take an aspirin. Call for emergency help first.