Generally, a heart attack will cause chest pain that lasts for more than 15 minutes. The pain caused by a heart attack can range from mild to severe. Chest pressure or heaviness is a common symptom of a heart attack, but some people experience no chest pain at all. Heart attacks can cause different symptoms in women, such as nausea or back or jaw pain.
Heart attacks may come on suddenly or gradually, but many individuals experience precursor indications hours or days before the attack.
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Someone having a heart attack may have any or all of the following:
- Chest pain, pressure or tightness, or a squeezing or aching sensation in the center of the chest
- Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, teeth or occasionally upper abdomen
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Light headedness, dizziness, fainting
Here’s what to do if you or someone else has a heart attack:
Take an aspirin. Aspirin prevents your blood from clotting. When taken during a heart attack, it’s been shown to reduce heart damage. However, do not take aspirin if you’re allergic to it or if your health care provider has told you never to take it.
Take nitroglycerin. If you think you’re having a heart attack and your doctor has previously given you nitroglycerin, take it as directed while waiting for emergency medical assistance.
Initiate a CPR if the affected person is unconscious. If the person you are with isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, immediately begin CPR to keep blood flowing and call for emergency medical help. Push hard and fast in the center of their chest at a fairly rapid rate — about 100-120 compressions per minute.
If an automated external defibrilator is available and the affected person is unconscious, follow the instructions to use it.