Warning signs of a heart attack


An umbrella term that encompasses various conditions, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a formidable foe. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases claim the lives of 17.7 million people across the globe every year, accounting for 31 percent of all deaths worldwide.

If CVD statistics are alarming, then it’s important to note that many premature deaths related to CVD can be prevented. While the WHO notes that four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, men and women who learn to recognize the warning signs of heart attack may be able to get help before things escalate. In fact, the American Heart Association notes that many heart attacks begin slowly with mild pain or discomfort. By paying attention to their bodies and learning to recognize these warning signs, men and women may be able to get help before heart attacks claim their lives.

  • Chest discomfort: Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back is a telltale sign of heart attack. The discomfort may feel like pressure in the chest, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in the upper body: Discomfort in areas of the upper body that are not the chest also may be a warning sign of heart attack. The AHA notes that such discomfort or pain may occur in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath may be an early warning sign of heart problems. The AHA notes that this may or may not be accompanied by discomfort in the chest.
  • Additional signs: The AHA notes that some people suffering from a heart attack may break out in a cold sweat, experience nausea or begin to feel lightheaded.

Are symptoms different for men and women?

Symptoms of heart attack tend to be different for men and women. While the most common symptom for both men and women is chest pain or discomfort, women are more likely than men to experience additional symptoms. According to the AHA, women are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and pain in their backs or jaws.

The AHA urges fast action by anyone who suspects they or a loved one are suffering a heart attack. Acting quickly can save lives and help men and women avoid joining the nearly 18 million people who succumb to cardiovascular disease each year.