Signs and symptoms of heart attacks

Learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

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What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. Other symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • shortness of breath
  • pain that may spread:
    • from the chest area
    • down your arm(s)
    • to the neck, jaw or shoulders
  • paleness, sweating or weakness
  • chest pain with possible feelings of:
    • fullness
    • burning
    • pressure
    • tightness
    • squeezing
    • heaviness
    • discomfort
    • crushing pain
  • nausea, vomiting and possible indigestion
  • anxiety or fear

Most symptoms of a heart attack are the same for men and women.

Women are more likely to feel some discomfort in the chest rather than a sharp pain or tightness. The milder symptoms do not mean that a woman's heart attack is any less severe than a man's heart attack. Any symptoms of a heart attack should be taken seriously.

What do you do if you have a heart attack?

If you have any of the listed symptoms:

  • tell someone and ask them to get help right away
  • call 911 or your local emergency number

The faster you get help, the better your chances of surviving a heart attack. Half of heart attack deaths happen within 2 hours of the first signs.

On average, Canadians wait almost 5 hours before getting medical help. Many people find it hard to believe that they are having a heart attack. They convince themselves that the symptoms are something else and that they will go away.

Not getting help for your symptoms could lead to death. New therapies and drugs can reduce damage and save your life if treatment begins soon enough. Your health care provider will work with you to determine treatment and recovery needs.

If you have suffered a heart attack, having important health information close by can help medical staff treat you. Carry personal health information with you at all times and have it posted by your phone. You may not be able to tell medical staff this information yourself, depending on your condition.

Your list should include:

  • allergies
  • blood type
  • height and weight
  • name and address
  • age and birth date
  • medical conditions
  • emergency contacts
  • telephone and health care number
  • medical history (including surgeries)
  • current medications (dosage and frequency)
  • health care provider (name and phone number)
  • health insurance number for expenses that are not covered under provincial health insurance plans, such as:
    • ambulance services
    • prescription medication

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