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Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

If you or a loved one experience any of the following, call 9-1-1 immediately!

What is a Heart Attack?

It is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. A heart attack is caused by a narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.

Each year, about 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack. About 460,000 of those heart attacks are fatal. About half of those deaths occur within 1 hour of the start of symptoms and before the person reaches the hospital.

Fortunately, everyone can take steps to protect their heart-and their life or that of someone else. The key is seeking medical care as soon as possible. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack is the first step to saving a life.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • 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, or light-headedness.

Surviving a Heart Attack

Fast action is the best weapon against a heart attack. Immediate treatment can prevent or limit damage to the heart. The sooner treatment is begun, the better chance of survival and recovery.

Call 9-1-1 whether you are sure that you are having a heart attack or not! Don't wait more than 5 monutes before calling 9-1-1. Calling 9-1-1 for an ambulance is the best way to get to the Hospital because:

  • Emergency medical services (EMS) can begin treatment immediately- even before arrival at the Hospital.
  • The heart may stop beating during a heart attack - this is called Sudden Cardiac Arrest - and EMS have the equipment needed to start the heart beating again.
  • Heart attack patients who arrive by ambulance tend to receive faster treatment upon their arrival to the Hospital.
  • If, for some reason, you are not able to call 9-1-1 have someone else drive you to the Hospital. NEVER drive yourself unless you have absolutely no other choice.

Calling 9-1-1 is like bringing the Hospital to your door. EMS can take vital signs, determine your medical condition, and if needed provide medical treatment. The Chester County Hospital has the capability to receive an EKG taken from the ambulance so the Emergency Department and a Cardiologist can begin to review the patient's case before they reach the Hospital. The EMS can also provide a variety of treatments, medications and monitoring devices. They also have the ability to restart the heart with a defibrillator, if needed.

Plan Ahead

  • Learn the heart attack signs and symptoms.
  • Think through and decide what you would do should you or a loved one experience a heart attack.
  • Decide who would care for any dependants in the case of an emergency and have their contact information readily available.
  • Explain the benefits (listed above) of calling 9-1-1 to your friends and family.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for heart attack and, if necessary, discuss what you can do to redice the risk.

Last Updated: 1/3/2011