A heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart is cut off. Cells in the heart muscle that do not receive enough oxygen-carrying blood begin to die. Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, having had a previous heart attack or stroke, or having diabetes can increase your chance of developing heart disease and having a heart attack.
A report from the American Heart Association notes these major signs of a heart attack:1
Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but it also can occur before chest discomfort.
Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.
Health conditions, lifestyle, age, and family history can all increase your risk for heart disease and a heart attack. About half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or smoking.2
It is important to recognize the signs of a heart attack and to act immediately by calling 911. A person’s chance of surviving a heart attack increases if emergency treatment is administered as soon as possible. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.