Heart Attack Symptoms
Common signs and symptom of heart attack include:
- Chest pain or discomfort (angina), which can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest. With heart attack, the pain usually lasts for more than a few minutes, but it may increase and decrease in intensity.
- Discomfort in the upper body including the arms, neck, back, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, which can occur with or without chest pain.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breaking out in cold sweat
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Women are less likely to have chest pain
Immediate Treatment of a Heart Attack
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend:
- If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 right away. After you call 911, chew an adult-size (325 mg) non-coated aspirin. Be sure to tell the paramedics so an additional aspirin dose is not given.
- Angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is a procedure that should be performed within 90 minutes of a full-thickness (STEMI) heart attack. Patients suffering a heart attack should be transported by emergency services to hospitals equipped to perform PCI.
- Fibronolytic (“clot-busting”) therapy should be given within 30 minutes of a heart attack if a center that performs PCI is not available. The patient should then be transferred to a PCI facility without delay.
Secondary Prevention of Heart Attack
Secondary prevention measures are essential to help prevent another heart attack. Do not leave the hospital without discussing these secondary prevention steps with your doctor:
- High blood pressure and cholesterol control. (Nearly all patients who have had a heart attack should be discharged from the hospital with a prescription for a statin drug, an ACE inhibitor, and a beta blocker).
- Low-dose (81 mg) aspirin, which most patients will need to take on an ongoing basis. Patients who cannot take aspirin may benefit from the anti-platelet drug clopidogrel (Plavix). Prasugrel (Effient) is a new drug that may be used as an alternative to clopidogrel for select patients.
- Cardiac rehabilitation and regular exercise program
- Weight management
- Smoking cessation
Review Date: 05/05/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.