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).
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?)