How To Know You're Having A Heart Attack

If you're having chest pain and you've had time to search for this article and read it, you probably aren't having a heart attack. All kidding aside, a heart attack is a serious event that needs immediate attention. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 27 percent of the population knows the signs of a heart attack and that a call to 911 is critical. Learn to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack in you, and others, before it's too late.

What Happens to Your Body During a Heart Attack

Your heart is a muscle that beats constantly to circulate the blood throughout your body. Because it is a muscle, it also needs blood to provide it nutrition. Small blood vessels, called coronary arteries, feed the heart. If one or more of these  vessels become completely or partially blocked, they can't provide blood to the  heart and the muscle fibers become starved. The heart responds by creating the chest pain and pressure that people commonly report when having a heart attack.

What Triggers a Heart Attack

Anything that increases the workload on your heart can trigger a heart attack. Exercise or other physical exertion, stress and fear can bring on the pain. The pain may go away as you relax, but there will likely be some damage to the heart muscle as a result of the event. Even if the pain goes away before you get to the phone, you need to see a heart doctor, such as Cayuga Medical Center, to get evaluated and prevent a future heart attack.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Learn these signs ahead of time so you can help yourself, or someone else, should a heart attack happen.

Chest pain - This will be a dull pain or pressure in your chest that is often accompanied by tightness and burning in the same area.

Radiating pain - Heart attack pain spreads out from the center of your chest into your left arm, back, and neck. You may have numbness and tingling in your left arm.

Fluctuating pain - The chest pain will ebb and flow as your heart rate increases and decreases. When you have the pain initially, you may become excited and your heart rate increases, as does your pain. Calming yourself down to reduce your heart rate reduces the pain. It is important to call 911 even if the pain slowly goes away as it can start up again suddenly.

Dull, radiating chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack, but there are other conditions that may also show up during the event:

  • breathing difficulty
  • sudden feeling of nausea
  • dizziness or disorientation
  • weakness and fatigue
  • flushing of your skin

Understanding how a heart attack happens and the common symptoms allows you to take action for yourself or others. Don't become a statistic by being aware of these warning signs.