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Am I Having a Heart Attack?
Know the Symptoms

The first hour of a heart attack is known as the "golden hour." If you get help during that first hour, your chances of recovery are greatly improved. Yet many people hesitate to get help when they first experience symptoms. They're afraid of the embarrassment of going to the emergency room and finding that nothing is wrong. So, it is important that you know the symptoms that may indicate that a heart attack is in progress.

Many of the symptoms of heart attack can be brought on by digestive disturbances or other less serious conditions. But only sophisticated medical tests can determine for sure if you're having a heart attack. Heart attacks may vary from person to person, and from heart attack to heart attack. The majority of people experience the following symptoms:

  • Crushing central chest pain. This often travels to the neck, jaws, ears, arms and wrists. Less often, it goes to between the shoulder blades or to the abdomen.
  • Breathlessness.
  • Clammy sweat and gray complexion.
  • Dizziness, sickness and vomiting.
  • General weakness and frightening sense of impending doom.

If the symptoms last more than 15 minutes, it is probably a heart attack. Unlike angina, the pain does not pass on resting.

Severe pain is not always a feature; in less major cases, pain may be absent and there is evidence that up to 20% of mild heart attacks are not recognized as such, or even as significant illness, by those affected.

If you think you are having a heart attack, dial for an ambulance. Heart attack is one instance where getting treatment promptly can mean the difference between life and death. If you are in doubt, err on the side of being more cautious and go to the emergency room and get yourself checked.

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