Heart &
Vascular

Early Warning Signs

During a heart attack, time is muscle.

The longer you wait for care, the more heart muscle you lose. Early treatment can mean the difference between life and death. The sooner your coronary artery is unblocked, the better your chance for survival and avoiding permanent heart damage.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked, starving the heart muscle of oxygen and damaging heart tissue. Only 90 minutes. That's the time we have to help reduce the damage from a heart attack. Recognizing and reacting to the early symptoms of a heart attack and reducing the time it takes to receive treatment improves chances of survival and recovery.

What can we do? 

The Society for Cardiovascular Patient Care has developed an educational program called Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC). This program asks you to learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack so you can become an active bystander and save a life — even if it's yours. Why?

On average, 50% of patients who die from a heart attack experienced, but ignored, the warning signs. Below are steps to understand and follow to prevent a heart attack or react when a heart attack occurs.

Learn the early signs & symptoms

Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms, but not everyone experiences a heart attack the same way, according to the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. Heart attacks have "beginnings," much like other diseases. If these signs are recognized in time, they could be treated before the heart is damaged. Other symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • Nausea
  • Jaw pain
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Pain that travels down one or both arms
  • Chest pressure, squeezing, aching or burning.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms: Call 911 immediately.

Survive, don't drive. Call 911. 
Some people drive themselves or a loved one to the ER when they're having heart attack symptoms — this is a mistake. First responders are trained to begin treatment right away, much faster than if you drive to the Emergency Department room yourself. If someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, be persistent in convincing them to call 911.

If someone collapses, perform hands-only CPR
Hands-only CPR focuses on chest compression and eliminates mouth-to-mouth breathing. Providing hands-only CPR to an adult who has collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest before EMS arrives can more than double, even triple, that person's chance of survival.Two steps can save a life: 

  1. Call 911

  2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives. See it in action.

To become trained in hands-only CPR, call your local Fire & EMS Department.

Healthy Heart Tips

You can take steps today to promote a heart-healthy lifestyle:

  • Don't smoke
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Lose excess weight
  • Drink alcohol in moderation (one or fewer drinks per day for women and two or fewer drinks per day for men)
  • Get regular check-ups from your doctor
  • Follow your physician's medication and treatment orders carefully. Do not change, add or stop medication without consulting your doctor.