Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

heart and stethoscope

Heart Disease is still the number one cause of death in North America, claiming over 14,000 lives a year.  Currently, 1.6 million Canadians live with heart disease.

Symptoms of heart attacks can widely vary and don’t always appear to be severe. Up to two thirds of people actually feel no chest pain when they have a heart attack, which can leads to affected individuals to wait before seeking medical attention. Older folks, people with diabetes, and women may experience symptoms differently than the standard symptoms usually associated with a heart attack. It’s not always easy to tell the symptoms – some people have confused their heart attacks with the flu and acid reflux.

Many people actually have symptoms which occur in the days or weeks leading up to the heart attack, but don’t recognize them until it’s too late. Know the symptoms of a heart attack so that if they occur, you can get the medical attention you require and increase your chances of recovery.

Typical symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest. Pain may feel like fullness, pressure, squeezing, burning, heaviness or tight ache
  • Pain/discomfort in your jaw, back, neck, stomach or arm areas
  • Shortness of breath

Lesser Common Symptoms that may go unnoticed, especially in older folks, diabetics, and women:

  • Fatigue – feeling tired all of a sudden, for possibly days
  • Nausea or even vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness, or a lightheaded feeling
  • Fainting
  • Sweating
  • Sudden Anxiety

It’s important to remember that heart attack symptoms affect people differently. Even if you’ve had a heart attack before, your symptoms may also change and feel differently than your first heart attack.

Though heart attacks are often thought to be sudden events, the onset of symptoms can also occur over an extended period of time (hours or even days). In fact, many peoples’ first signs of heart attacks are not described as pain.

If you do feel any of the described symptoms an unusual amount, you should:

  • Cease any activity, and sit or lie down in whatever position is most comfortable to you
  • Call 911, or ask someone close by to call 911

Remember – acting fast can save your life. If you are noticing unusual symptoms and suspect a heart attack, don’t wait to find out if your symptoms become unbearable.

Happy Heart Month Everyone!