How to Recognize A Heart Attack
From your Guide
Heart attacks are responsible for 500,000 deaths every year
in the U.S. alone and most of the deaths occur in the first hour of the attack.
Everyone should know how to recognize a heart attack because early detection
and treatment can reduce this risk.
- A heart attack most often causes chest pain.
- The pain is located in the center of the chest, is intense in its severity
and most victims describe it as the worst pain they've ever felt in their
- The character of the pain is very difficult to describe accurately. Chest
pain in a heart attack has been variously described as being crushing, tearing,
binding or feeling like a heavy weight has been placed on one's chest.
- The pain lasts longer than a few minutes. In angina pectoris, a milder
version of a block to the heart's blood supply, the pain typically stops within
- The chest pain in a heart attack may spread or radiate to the neck, jaw,
left arm and sometimes even to the fingertips or back.
- During a heart attack, in addition to chest pain, there may be associated
nausea with or without vomiting, a sudden bowel movement, profuse sweating
and an ashen pallor.
- In severe heart attacks, the heart's pumping action may be so badly impeded
that the victim loses consciousness.
- Due to the decreased pumping capacity of the heart, the patient's pulse
feels feeble and thready, and the heart rate is extremely fast.
- In rare cases, as in patients who are diabetic, the heart attack may not
be very painful, and sometimes can even be entirely painless.
- Other disorders that could be confused with a heart attack include acute
gallbladder infection, perforation of stomach or intestine, pulmonary embolism
and aortic dissection.
- Confirmed diagnosis of a heart attack can be made in a hospital, by recording
an EKG or by analyzing the levels of various enzymes in the blood.
- Early emergency treatment is of the essence.
- Heart attacks are the commonest cause of sudden severe chest pain.
- Early recognition and treatment can considerably reduce mortality risk.
- When in doubt about the diagnosis, rush the victim to hospital.
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