Knowing Heart Attack Symptoms Saves Lives

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STATE—February is American Heart Month and the Saint Barnabas Heart Centers remind families to take symptoms seriously and to summon medical assistance by calling 9-1-1 immediately if they think a family member is having a heart attack. Heart disease remains the nation’s number one killer of both men and women.

“If you or a family member are exhibiting signs of a heart attack, call an ambulance instead of attempting to drive to the hospital,” says Gary J. Rogal MD, chief of cardiology for the Saint Barnabas Health Care System. “If his or her condition should worsen, there is nothing you can do to help while driving. Ambulance crews have training and equipment to care for heart attack patients while they are being transported to the hospital.”


Signs of a Heart Attack
The most common symptoms of a heart attack include:

• Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back

• Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, jaw, arms, or back

• Chest discomfort associated with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath

• Profound fatigue, which may last several days before the heart attack

• The occurrence of any of these symptoms without exertion

There are less common warning signs of heart attack that should also be taken seriously, especially if they accompany any of the above symptoms.

The intensity of the symptoms is not significant and they may not result in actual pain, reports Dr. Rogal, as for example, shortness of breath is not considered painful. The important feature is that these symptoms are new, possibly subtle, and there is no reason for them (for example, abdominal discomfort without having a recent meal).

These less common symptoms include:
• Stomach or abdominal pain
• Nausea or dizziness
• Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
• Unexplained anxiety, weakness, or fatigue
• Palpitations, cold sweat, or paleness

Not all these signs occur in every heart attack. Sometimes symptoms go away and return. In all cases a person can lower the chance of dying from a heart attack by recognizing symptoms and getting medical help immediately.

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