Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but many heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Don't wait too long before getting help. Here are the common signs of a heart attack:
- Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, or squeezing pain in the center of the chest
- Lasts more than a few minutes
- Can spread to the shoulders, neck, or arms
- Can be accompanied by lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath
What To Do
- Call 911
- Sit or lie down
- Do NOT go to the hospital in a private car. You might need emergency care on the way to the hospital, which ambulance staff can provide.
Quick treatment minimizes heart muscle damage and can save your life!
A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood through a coronary artery is completely blocked. Most of the time, a heart attack causes permanent damage to your heart muscle, which is why it's also called a myocardial infarction or MI. Myocardial means "heart muscle," and infarction means "tissue death".
Most heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease (CAD), the buildup of a material called plaque in the coronary arteries. This buildup can eventually block the flow of blood in the artery. Plaque buildup can also rupture, causing blood clots that block the artery. A less common cause of heart attack is a spasm in the artery.
The pain from a heart attack (shown below in red and orange) is usually severe and prolonged.
Heart Attack In Depth
Learn more about heart attack from Intermountain's Patient Education Library: