Am I Having a Heart Attack?

Written By: Care New England on February 07, 2022

In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds.  A heart attack, also referred to myocardial infarction, occurs when the heart's blood supply is cut off and the heart cannot get the oxygen it needs to function. 

The symptoms and severity of a heart attack vary from person to person. However, many people experience warning signs beforehand. Here are five (5) ways to help identify and detect a heart attack.

1. Chest Pain and Discomfort
Debilitating chest pain is the most prominent symptom of a heart attack. In many instances, the pain from a heart attack is intense, making it easy to recognize and seek help. You can experience mild to severe discomfort and pain in the center or left side of the chest.

Discomfort may feel like pressure, squeezing, burning sensation, or fullness in your chest lasting a few minutes. While such pain and discomfort may be related to other less severe conditions like heartburn, it is important to be examined to rule out a heart attack.
2. Shortness of Breath
Feeling like you just finished a marathon, when you just climbed up some stairs, can be a sign that your heart is not receiving enough oxygen. Often accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath is also a common sign of a heart attack. There is a close relationship between your breathing and your heart's ability to pump blood, and shortness of breath can be a sign your heart is not working effectively.

You may also experience dizziness and fatigue and have trouble with previously easy tasks such as walking your dog or washing dishes. While shortness of breath occurs in both men and women, it is more common in women.  
3. Heart Palpitations
A change in your heart's rhythm or feeling like it is skipping a beat can be an indication of a heart attack. A steady and consistent heartbeat allows blood to move throughout the body. 
A change in this rhythm means the heart cannot work correctly, resulting in an attack. When you experience dizziness, chest pain, and fainting in addition to heart palpitations, you should seek medical intervention.
4. Cold Sweat
Waking up to a cold sweat and nausea may be a symptom of flu. However, it can also be a sign of an impending heart attack. Sweating is caused by the added effort of your heart pumping blood through blocked arteries.

Research shows sweating is among the symptoms that make heart attack sufferers seek help. If you experience a cold sweat for no apparent reason, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, reach out for help immediately.
5. Discomfort in Other Parts of the Body
It is easy to assume that a heart attack will only affect your heart. However, you may experience the effects in other parts of your body including:
  • Neck
  • Jaw
  • Back
  • Upper abdomen
  • Arms
  • Stomach (upset, indigestion, nausea)
  • Lower abdomen
  • Upper chest.  
Bottom Line:
While heart attacks vary, in most cases you get warning signs hours, days, or weeks before an attack. You may experience:
  1. Chest Discomfort
  2. Shortness of Breath
  3. Cold Sweat
  4. Heart Palpitations
  5. Discomfort in Other Body Parts

Beware of these signs and symptoms, and do not ignore them.

Learn more about Care New England's wide range of cardiology services to keep your heart healthy.

Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis.  If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.