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First Aid and Emergencies

Heart Attack

When to Call a Health Professional

A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is caused by a complete blockage of the blood flow to a part of the heart muscle. This usually occurs when a small blood clot forms in one of the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle.

Discomfort or pain caused by a heart attack may be in the chest, abdomen, upper back, neck, jaw, and/or one or both arms.

The pain of a heart attack usually lasts longer than 10 minutes and often occurs with other symptoms such as sweating, shortness of breath, or nausea. The pain of a heart attack will not usually go away with rest.

Discomfort caused by a heart attack can occur in any of the shaded areas, as well as the upper back.

Many people mistake heart attack symptoms for other problems, such as indigestion, heartburn, or a pulled muscle. It is important to recognize the signals your body sends during the early stages of a heart attack and seek emergency care. Medical treatment is needed to prevent death. Sometimes, medications can be given to avoid the heart muscle damage caused by a heart attack.

When to Call a Health Professional

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Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you think you may be having a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain that is crushing (feels like someone is sitting on your chest) or squeezing, increasing in intensity, or that occurs with any of the following symptoms:

  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat.

  • Sweating.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Pain in the chest, abdomen, upper back, neck, jaw, and/or one or both arms.

  • Nausea or vomiting.

  • Lightheadedness.

Call your doctor if chest discomfort or pain lasts longer than 30 minutes and there is no obvious cause.

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