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Heart attack: Early signs of heart attack

Heart attack


A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is a medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly and severely reduced or cut off, causing the muscle to die from lack of oxygen. More than 1.1 million people experience a heart attack (myocardial infarction) each year, and for many of them, the heart attack is their first symptom of coronary artery disease. A heart attack may be severe enough to cause death or it may be silent. As many as one out of every five people have only mild symptoms or none at all, and the heart attack may only be discovered by routine electrocardiography done some time later.

Early Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms


Over 800,000 people die in the U.S. every year from a heart attack. On average, 50 percent of these patients displayed but ignored, the warning signs.

Someone may experience any or all of these symptoms. When they start, they can be mild or come and go. Over time, the symptoms and pain increase until the victim collapses. Symptoms include:

✓Chest pressure, squeezing, aching or burning

✓Feeling of fullness

✓Pain that travels down one or both arms

✓Jaw pain

✓Excessive fatigue

✓Anxiety

✓Nausea

✓Back pain

✓Shortness of breath

Heart attack symptoms in women vs. men


Women are more likely than men to have silent heart attacks and heart attacks without chest pain. Heart attacks are also more likely to start when a woman is at rest or experiencing mental stress.

That means it’s especially important for women to watch out for symptoms like shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, nausea or vomiting, or pain in the jaw, arms or back.

Also, we now know that young women are particularly prone to a type of heart event called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), which we talk about in more depth below.

Cause of heart attack


Blood flows to your heart through the coronary arteries. A blockage in one of your coronary arteries can cause a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease (also called atherosclerosis) is a common cause of a heart attack. This is when deposits of fat and other substances build up in the inner lining of an artery. This build-up is called atheroma or plaque. If one of the plaques crack, a blood clot will form which can block the artery and cause a heart attack.

A less common cause of heart attack is spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a condition where one or more of the coronary arteries tear.
Heart attack
Image: iStockphotos

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