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Heart Health

When to Worry

A heart attack can strike you or a loved one unexpectedly, so it is important to understand the warning signs and to know what to do. 

Advances in early recognition and treatment over the past decade have dramatically reduced heart attack death rates to less than 5 percent in those patients treated early in the event. Today, if a patient is admitted promptly, doctors can open up the blood vessel, begin treatment, and save the heart muscle.


The Warning Signs

The classic warning signs of a heart attack are:

Not every patient, however, has these classic symptoms. A significant number of heart attack victims, often elderly females and diabetics, have no warning signs.  Or they mistake obscure symptoms such as feeling slightly uncomfortable in the chest for a less severe condition.  All of this leads to poor early recognition and increased death rates.


When to Take Action

Take 3 important steps when responding to a heart attack:

1.    Recognize the symptoms. It may be a heart attack if you or a loved one is feeling:

2.    Call 911 right away.  Delaying treatment can cause dramatic loss of heart muscle. It is important that a heart attack patient gets into the hospital's catheter lab as soon as possible, allowing the doctor to restore effective blood supply.

3.    Take one adult aspirin or four baby aspirin while waiting for the medic to arrive. Aspirin has been proven to increase survival in patients suffering a heart attack.

Knowing the signs of a heart attack and following these steps when responding to a heart attack can help save your or a loved one's life.

Helping Others to Recognize Heart Attack Symptoms

You can help teach others the symptoms of a heart attack by sharing this video with your family and friends:  http://twurl.nl/wm1tsc  

Ways to share the video:


By sharing these warning signs, you can help save lives.

This article originally appeared in The Ohio State University Medical Center's Heart Newsletter and is published with permission.

Related Resources:

Are You at Risk for Cardiac Arrest?
Could You Be Having a Heart Attack?
Women and Heart Attacks: The Symptoms Are Subtle

For more information:

Go to the Heart Health health topic, where you can:

Last Reviewed: Jun 22, 2010

Raymond D Magorien, MD Raymond D Magorien, MD
Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University