Everyone Should Know the Five Signs of a Heart Attack

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Heart attacks can occur without warning and it is really important to be able to recognize the five signs of a heart attack and to call 911 in time to save a life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a myocardial infarction (heart attack) occurs every 40 seconds in the United States. Every year there are 790,000 heart attacks. The CDC claims there are five signs that a person is having a heart attack.

Five Signs that a Person is Having a Heart Attack and Phone 911 Right Away

  1. Pain in the chest or a feeling of discomfort or tightness in the chest
  2. Pain or a feeling of discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Feeling faint, weak or light-headed
  5. Pain or an uncomfortable feeling in the shoulders or arms

Other signs, especially in women, may be nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

What You can do Until the Ambulance Arrives

In some cases it may be necessary to perform cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but this can only be done by someone who has taken a course to properly learn how to perform CPR. It is so important for everyone to learn how to do this. See our blog post from December 6, 2018 for more about CPR and how two small boys saved the life of their grandmother.
Sometimes a defibrillator is necessary to administer an electric shock to the heart, but few people are walking around carrying a defibrillator.

Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)

The human heart is mainly made up of strong muscle tissue. This amazing organ works 24/7 whether a person is awake or asleep.
A heart attack happens when part of the heart which is mainly made up of muscle does not receive enough blood flow. The longer this state lasts, the greater will be damage to the heart. It is crucial to get emergency help as soon as possible for someone having a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Silent Heart Attacks

Silent Heart attacks do not have any symptoms, but the heart can still be damaged even though no one, including the person who is having a silent heart attack, realizes that a heart attack is taking place.

Causes of Heart Attacks

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the main cause of heart attacks. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) some people have no idea they have coronary artery disease until they experience a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by plaque building up inside the arteries and this leads to narrowing of the arteries called atherosclerosis. This narrowing can lead to circulation problems. One of the signs that the heart is finding it difficult to pump blood because of atherosclerosis is a kind of chest pain called angina.

The Heart can be Left Damaged from a Heart Attack

A heart attack can leave you with a damaged heart such as:

  • Problems with the heart’s rhythm called arrhythmias
  • Problems with the heart’s ability to pump blood
  • Problems with the circulation of blood
  • Higher risk for another heart attack, stroke, kidney disease or peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Sudden Cardiac Death

In some cases a heart attack can cause sudden cardiac death (SCD). See our blog post from September 13, 2018 to learn more about sudden cardiac death.

Lifestyle Changes may Prevent another Heart Attack

If you had a heart attack and do not want any more heart attacks there are some simple lifestyle changes that can help to prevent another one. If you enroll in a cardiac rehabilitation program you will get help with managing lifestyle changes.

  • Quit Smoking
  • Cut back or stop drinking alcoholic drinks
  • Get plenty of physical exercise
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, whole grains and more fish and less red and processed meat
  • Take prescribed medical drugs
  • Learn how to manage stress

The Need for Short or Long-term Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care

Heart disease can lead to a need for short or long-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care.

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York provides short and long-term rehabilitation therapy tailored to a patient’s individual needs. Van Duyn also has very rich recreational activities.


Since time is so crucial in saving the life of someone having a heart attack, it is important for everyone to be able to recognize the five signs of a heart attack and to immediately phone 911.

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