*** Had this post over at my wordpress blog and i decided to bring it over here since it was a popular search topic..
Heart Attack Warning SignsSome heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help.
Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1.
Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too. It is best to call EMS for rapid transport to the emergency room.
If you can't access the emergency medical services (EMS), have someone drive you to the hospital right away. If you're the one having symptoms, don't drive yourself, unless you have absolutely no other option.
How do I know if a heart attack has occurred?
A doctor who's studied the results of several tests must diagnose a heart attack. The doctor will
review the patient's complete medical history.
give a physical examination.
Use an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to discover any abnormalities caused by damage to the heart. An ECG is a medical device that makes a graphical record of the heart's electrical activity.
sometimes use a blood test to detect abnormal levels of certain enzymes in the bloodstream.
Blood tests confirm (or refute) suspicions raised in the early stages of evaluation that may occur in an emergency room, intensive care unit or urgent care setting. These tests are sometimes called heart damage markers or cardiac enzymes.
*******As a cardiac ICU nurse our physicians always told patients after you call 911- take a 325mg asprin while waiting for the ambulance. Asprin is used as a blood thinner to help reduce the risks of blood clot forming in the cardiac vessels which would extend the area of damage from the heart attack. But you should review this with your own personal physician to make sure you are not contraindicated for asprin therapy