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Heart Attack Warning Signs

What are the warning signs of a heart attack? Common signs include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and pain that spreads to one or both arms, back, jaw, or stomach. Often, the warning signs can start slowly and may come and go. If you experience any of these warning signs, get help immediately.

An Introduction to Heart Attack Warning Signs

Each year, more than a million people in the United States have a heart attack. About half (515,000) of these people die as a result. About half of those who die do so within one hour of the start of symptoms and before reaching the hospital.
A heart attack is a very frightening event. But if you learn the warning signs and know what steps to take, you can save a life -- maybe your own.
So what are heart attack warning signs? Many people think a heart attack is sudden and intense, like a "movie" heart attack, where a person clutches his or her chest and falls over. Sometimes, this is the case. However, for a lot of people, heart attacks start slowly, as a mild pain or discomfort. If you feel such a symptom, you may not be sure what's wrong. Your symptoms may even come and go. Even those individuals who have had a heart attack may not recognize their symptoms, because the next attack can have entirely different ones.

Common Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Common signs of a heart attack include:
  • Chest discomfort
  • Pain that spreads to one or both arms, back, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath (feeling like you can't get enough air)
  • Cold sweats and nausea (feeling sick to your stomach).
Chest Discomfort
Heart attacks often involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. But pain is not always a heart attack warning sign. In fact, in up to 20 percent of heart attacks, a person has no pain. Also, for a lot of people, chest pain from a heart attack may feel like indigestion or heartburn (see Heartburn or Heart Attack?).
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Heart Attack Info

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