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Heart Attack Warning Signs


While a heart attack is a frightening event, you need to learn the signs of a heart attack and what steps to take. The life you save could be your own!

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.

The truth is that many 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 who have had a heart attack may not recognize their symptoms since the next heart attack can have different symptoms. Women may not think they are at risk of a heart attack - but they are.

You are at higher risk of heart disease if you are: 

  • A woman age 55 or older
  • A man age 45 or older
  • Or a person with a family history of early heart disease 

The warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks 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.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms may include:
    • Breaking out in a cold sweat
    • Nausea
    • Light-headedness

Learn the signs...but also remember:
Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, you should still have it checked out. Fast action can save lives...maybe your own.

Signs of a Heart Attack for Women 

The most common warning sign of a heart attack in both men and women is chest discomfort –usually in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Although both men and women can experience atypical symptoms of a heart attack, 70 percent of women have had heart attacks without any chest pain at all. Listen to your body. Trust your instincts. 

Women can experience atypical symptoms such as: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Back or jaw pain
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Throat discomfort
  • Burping or feeling of indigestion
  • 71% of women report flu-like symptoms for two to four weeks prior to having more acute chest discomfort 

If you suspect a heart attack: 

  • Call 9-1-1 and say “I am having a heart attack”. 
  • Chew an uncoated aspirin right away as this can reduce damage to the heart muscle.
  • Go to the nearest medical facility with 24-hour emergency cardiac care or a
    Chest Pain Center like Northridge Hospital Medical Center. Don't drive yourself. 
  • Get treatment quickly. Clot busting medicine and coronary angioplasty work best if provided after the first signs of distress.That is why it is important to call 9-1-1 immediately so treatment can start as soon as possible.

Learn More About Heart Care At Northridge Hospital Medical Center

For more information about the Cardiovascular Center, please call 818.885.8500. To find a physician, please call 818.908.8677 or use our search tool to Find a Doctor