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Heart Attack

Dial 9-1-1 Fast. Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies - every second counts. If you see or have any of the listed symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1. Not all these signs occur in every heart attack.


Some heart attacks are sudden and intense - the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort 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.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other Signs. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • Typically the vague discomfort in the midchest area called "angina pectoris" should be taken seriously, especially when occurring for the first time.

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Follow the "Golden" Rule!


Sometimes heart attack signs can go away and return. If you have a possible symptom, get help fast! Remember the "golden hour" in heart care. Treating your heart attack during the first hour of onset lessens the chance of death and disability.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 47% of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside a hospital.  This suggests that many people with heart disease don't act on early warning signs.




Remember: If you or a family member suspects a heart attack, the faster you receive care, the better your chance of survival! Calling 911 is your best chance of receiving the immediate care you need.


  • Do not try to drive yourself to a hospital if you are the one having a heart attack. If your spouse or another family member can get you to a hospital faster than the ambulance can, do it!
  • After you call 911, take an aspirin, unless you have an allergy to aspirin or your doctor has told you not to take aspirin for any reason. Research shows that taking an aspirin when symptoms start significantly improves chances  of survival for people having a heart attack.
  • If in doubt, check it out. Don't wait. Emergency personnel would rather have it turn out to be a false alarm than have you experience a heart attack or possibly death.
  • Know the symptoms! Recognition and minutes can make the difference between life and death or disability.
  • Know CPR. You could save a life someday.
  • Remember: Time is a muscle. The sooner you get help the less damage to the heart muscle.



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