Most people likely think they know the signs of a heart attack. The person grabs at their chest and falls dramatically to the floor, just like on television. Right? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the experience of suffering any kind of cardiac event varies from person to person. It’s all a bit more nuanced than the images we are familiar with in the media.

Knowing when you or someone you love is experiencing heart attack signs is important because a quick response can mean the difference between life and death. If you have a history of heart disease in your family, pay close attention to the following list. The more informed you are the better prepared you will be to protect yourself or someone you love.

1. Chest Pain

The most widely recognized heart attack warning sign is chest pain. Patients describe this feeling as pain in the center and/or left side of the chest that lasts for several minutes. This particular pain sensation may feel something like pressure or tightness and can be known to go away and then return. If you feel chest pain like this, seek medical attention as quickly as possible. 

2. Lightheadedness, Nausea, and Vomiting

People get lightheaded or nauseous all the time. Low blood sugar, medications, and dehydration are a few common causes. If you find yourself frequently lightheaded, it’s best to seek your doctor’s opinion to quell any concerns. However, when lightheadedness is combined with chest pain or a history of heart disease, it might be a warning sign that you are experiencing a cardiac event. 

3. Jaw Pain

It’s common for the pain from a heart attack to radiate to your face, jaw, or neck. Certainly, jaw pain on its own may not be a cause for concern, but as with any of these warning signs, the combination of two or more should raise red flags for you. If you regularly get unexplained jaw pain but have not been diagnosed with heart disease, it would be wise to see a cardiologist to determine whether an underlying heart condition could be the cause of your symptoms.

4. Shoulder or Arm Pain

Arm pain is the other symptom you’ve probably seen on television. Generally, the image of an older man on the tv screen grasping at his arm clearly signals that this person is in cardiac distress. Arm pain, as well as some of these other warning signs, may occur hours or days before the event. Be sure to contact your cardiologist if you have pains radiating through your arms.

5. Shortness of Breath

Finally, be aware of the times when you experience shortness of breath. It is normal to feel this symptom when exercising or climbing stairs, but it’s not normal to become short of breath when you’re going about your normal routine. If you feel the need to frequently stop and catch your breath, share your concerns with your doctor.

It may surprise you to learn that cardiac symptoms can differ between men and women. While men primarily experience chest pain, women are more likely to feel symptoms like lightheadedness and shortness of breath.

As G.I. Joe so wisely said, “now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” What you do with that knowledge is the most important step. We want to partner with you to help you protect your heart health for years to come. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment to learn more about your risk of heart disease or other cardiovascular issues.