The onset of heart attack symptoms can be very sudden and require immediate medical attention. An ambulance should be called and critical care services alerted as soon as symptoms appear.
Some of the symptoms of heart attack include:
- Chest pain – There chest may feel heavy and painful, as if it is being compressed. The pain may last for more than a few minutes or it may come and go.
- The pain may not stay confined to the chest and may radiate to the arms (usually the left arm), the neck, jaws, back and abdomen.
- The pain may be mild or severe and is often mistaken for heartburn or indigestion
- Feeling of weakness
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Shortness of breath, coughing and/or wheezing
- Nausea and vomiting
- An intense feeling of anxiety that is often described as a sinking sensation and sense of impending doom.
- Heart attack can also lead to more serious complications such as arrhythmia or irregularity of the heart rhythm. These are usually atrial arrhythmias that arise from the atrium. Ventricular arrythmias are more serious because they can cause the heart to spasm and stop beating altogether. This is known as sudden cardiac arrest. Some of the symptoms of this condition include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Cessation of breathing and movement
- Nonresponsiveness to sound or touch
If the above symptoms occur, chest compressions need to be started immediately. The rate of compression should be around 100-120 compressions per minute. This is called CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc